June 26, 2006
Measurement of Media Engagement

The latest announcement by OMD indicates a further shift toward considering viewer/reader engagement as a factor.

OMD, a media agency, announced that it would use these metrics in its decisions on which programs to buy after studying the engagement that people have with Web sites, television and magazine titles. Their studies found massive differences in the degree to which people engaged in certain television shows versus others, which comes as no real surprise.

Television, as with radio, can serve both as background noise at some points but as the focal point at others, depending on if people are "watching television" or "watching a particular program." My wife is a zapper who is known for "watching television," but I almost always only turn the TV on if I have the intent of watching something in particular.

And that type of viewing definitely carries a more focused involvement with programs that the industry has known it should take into account for a while--no one likes to talk about it, though, because qualitative measurements are a little harder to do than just counting eyeballs as all being equal.

However, study after study demonstrates how much more valuable involved viewing can be.

OMD claims that they are going to be able to create a "standard engagement currency" based on their study that would be comparative in nature, branching across multiple media forms.

To me, this should invariably take advertisers back to thinking more closely about natural product placement as an important alternative. DVR and TiVo viewers are the most dedicated viewers of all, since they've singled a program out for special viewing. Of course they're going to skip the regular commercial spots because they want to continue with the dramatic run of the show, but advertisers and producers alike should be considering product placement alternatives and sponsoring alternatives that do not interfere with the quality of programming and diminish viewer involvement while capitalizing on the deep involvement these consumers have with the product.

Maybe OMD's study is another step in the right direction. Coming on the heels of Nielsen's newest programming changes, it seems to be a positive move.