Why Your Brand Should Understand TV Program Engagement

September 28, 2009

For what seems eons, advertising has been bought and sold based on eyeballs — audience size and demographic composition. Does your brand need to reach women, aged 18-35, who live in the suburbs? No problem. No wait, actually there is a problem. All programs aren’t created equal, even when viewership and demographics are the same. The fact is that some TV programs are more engaging–much more, and some less–much less. Some authors have recognized the problem, as in the recent “Let’s Kill the CPM” post on Tech Crunch, but few know how to solve it.

Does Viewers TV Show Engagement Matter? (courtesy of Imagocommunity)

Does Viewers TV Show Engagement Matter? (courtesy of Imagocommunity)

TV Show Engagement — What Is It ?

TV show engagement is the degree to which viewers are involved in a program and are sufficiently immersed to understand the plot, characters and storyline (if there is one). Think of your own personal viewing experience:

  • How engaging is the content of the program?
  • Is the program a continuing series?
  • Are you viewing the program alone or with others?
  • Are you viewing because your spouse controls the remote?
  • etc.

All of these factors, plus a myriad of others, directly impact viewers TV program engagement. Engagement is not a measure of audience size. Very popular shows can have low engagement, just as niche programming can have very high engagement. But, as we all know, advertising is still bought primarily on the basis of viewership and demographics.

Does Program Engagement Matter ?

In a previous post, “How Digital & Measurement Innovation is Changing Marketing Accountability,” I discussed new media measurement approaches. From some of these new measurement tools, it turns out that TV program engagement matters a lot. Specifically, Nielsen research (disclosure: I now work at Nielsen) shows there’s a very strong correlation between TV program viewer engagement and ad recall. To put it simply, ad recall is driven not just by the ad creative, but by the program environment it sits within.

Ad Recall -- Highly Correlated to Program Engagement

Ad Recall -- Highly Correlated to Program Engagement

Marketing Analogues — Context Matters

CPG companies spend lots of money researching and defining optimal retail shelf sets:

  • Does my brand have more stopping power on the top or middle shelf ?
  • Should line extensions be grouped together or separately?
  • Do large sizes belong at the bottom or to the right? etc.

Retailers research the “desired shopper experience” and how to design store layout and offering:

  • Do consumers shop the store to the right or left ?
  • Should perishables be at the front or to the rear?
  • What categories should be placed together? etc.

Is there any question that environment and context matter in Marketing? Of course not. So, why shouldn’t the same logic apply to TV advertising and media? Does my ad work better in “Lost” or “American Idol,” based on viewer engagement with these programs? Now you can know.

Implications for Marketers

Marketers can use basic program engagement in several ways.

  1. Improved Efficiency & Effectiveness— With engagement data, your brand should be able to achieve the same overall ad recall and awareness levels, but at lower spending levels. Alternatively, you can deliver higher ad recall and awareness levels for the same spending. Effectively, program engagement data allows you to shift the “GRP vs. Awareness” curve in your favor.
  2. Negotiating Leverage — Program engagement data gives you insight and knowledge–and this translates to power. Now your brand can negotiate not just for guarantees on audience and demographics, but minimum engagement levels as well. Suddenly, your brand benefits from increased insight and understanding of TV program quality.

Sound futuristic? It’s not–all the major U.S. networks–NBC, CBS, Fox, ABC, etc. are using the data, as are many large advertisers. TV program engagement is a new Marketing metric that every Marketer should be aware of if they want to make their advertising and media plans work harder. Who knows, perhaps one day it will even help the networks develop more engaging content…

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The Future of Marketing & Me

September 24, 2009

This month, I started a new role with Nielsen IAG as Global EVP/GM for the Consumer Packaged Goods sector. IAG measures program and marketing engagement across the 3 screens (TV, Web, Mobile) in real time to help Marketers optimize their Marketing effectiveness and business impact. This role affords me the unique opportunity to sit at the forefront of the revolution that’s washing over the Marketing landscape, by working with CMO’s of major CPG companies to understand what Marketing really works and what doesn’t in TV, web, in-program product placement and cross-media in this new, complex and highly challenging world.

The Nielsen Company

The Nielsen Company

A sampling of the topics I’ll be focused on include:

  • Media Selection – How does selecting the right TV programs improve ad recall?
  • Ad Optimization – What is the optimal creative unit mix, copy length, wear-out, and rotation?
  • Program Environment– To what extent does the program environment drive ad effectiveness?
  • In Program Product Placement – How should Marketers evaluate product placement?
  • Cross Media Performance – What are the cross-media effects of ads?
  • Digital  & Social Media – How does advertising work in new media and in interaction with TV?
  • Real Time Impact – How do Marketers monitor ad performance in real time and adjust on the fly?

Blog Themes — Transformation & Impact

If you’re read any of my blog posts over the past few months, you’ve probably recognized at least two major themes:

  • The Transformed Marketing Landscape — We’re living through a transformational period in Marketing, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the rise of TV and mass marketing. This change is driven by the fragmentation of media, increasing digitization of marketing, rise of social media, increasing importance of word of mouth from our social networks, and measurement tool innovation, among others. In short, Marketing has become a real-time, highly complex, more measurable, and conversational endeavor.
  • The Need to Demonstrate Real Marketing Impact — Marketing should build brand image, increase customer satisfaction, and deliver improved top and bottom line business results. Marketers were already challenged to show real value for their spending before the changes outlined above; their ability to deliver results in this environment is even more challenging. This means that, more than ever before, they need partners who can bring sophisticated measurement and analytical tools to bear on their most pressing challenges and leadership thinking as to what this means for the Marketing function.

The crushing economic crisis of the past 18 months has, in my mind, only accelerated the need for the Marketing function to become more transparent and accountable for real business results. CEO’s, CFO’s and shareholders are demanding it, either directly or indirectly.

How My New Role Impacts This Blog

  1. The CMO Perspective — I’ve written this blog from the point of view of a CMO. This perspective will continue, and in fact, will be enhanced as I meet and work with CMO’s from major CPG companies around the world. These conversations will enable me to bring an insiders view of the major issues and challenges facing Marketing organizations in this changing Marketing landscape, and share these perspectives as appropriate.
  2. The Marketing Effectiveness Perspective — The new role provides a unique vantage point: the ability to look across CPG companies, brands and geographies to understand what works and what doesn’t. I want to have more and deeper insight into what Marketing really drives business results than anyone else in this space.  This will allow me to provide new perspective and insight, while still respecting client confidentiality.

Going Forward

I’ll continue to write about important Marketing topics — both ones which benefit from my Nielsen perspective and those which don’t. This blog won’t be an ad for Nielsen or a thinly disguised vendor white paper. But it will frequently draw on Nielsen data to make what I think are important points about Marketing. And while it should go without saying, it most certainly won’t ever compromise the confidentiality of any client which does business with Nielsen.

Thanks for your support and readership. Keep the comments coming. I look forward to continuing to write about Marketing topics that are at the forefront of the Marketing transformation that is enveloping us and most importantly, how Marketing can build brand equity, customer satisfaction and revenue and profit.

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Should Marketers Care About Corporate Reputation ?

September 8, 2009

It seems that everywhere you look these days, a great corporate icon’s reputation lays in ruin — General Motors, AIG, Citicorp — the list goes on and on. Yet many Marketers seem to be obsessed only with the latest Twitter app or new social media platform. To be sure, these are important and even epochal changes in the Marketing landscape, but where’s the sense of focus? Or, as I asked in a recent Forbes CMO Network Q&A column, is reputation management someone else’s responsibility?

GM -- Reputation Lost

GM -- Reputation Lost

Corporate Reputation — Not a Marketing Priority?

Company reputation often receives short shrift from Marketers and for good reason. It’s often seen as the purview of “corporate communications” — the people who manage challenging stakeholders like the media, NGO’s, Wall Street analysts and the like—as well as regular consumers. Thus, it’s seen as an important, but not high priority for many Marketing organizations.

This is a dangerous and narrow point of view for Marketers–particularly for single brand companies. Why? Because corporate reputation is often correlated with business results: stronger reputations equal better financial results. And corporate reputation is often driven by factors that Marketing can and should influence. So, Marketing needs to play a leading role along with Corporate Communications to deliver integrated plans that build brand equity, corporate reputation — and even better business results.

AIG -- Reputation in Tatters

AIG -- Reputation in Tatters

Corporate Reputation Does Not Equal Brand Equity

Historically, the Marketing function focus has been on brand equity — the key functional and emotional benefits the brand wants to “own” in consumers minds to differentiate it versus competition and drive consideration and purchase. Corporate reputation is broader than brand equity. It’s the measure of company attributes that add up to overall corporate image. Brand equity and corporate reputation are not the same thing, but they often do overlap and reinforce each other. Hence, a good reason for Marketing to care about corporate reputation. Most importantly, strong brand equity and corporate reputation both lead to improved business outcomes.

Defining the Drivers of Corporate Reputation

Good marketers use “drivers” research to quantify how various brand attributes impact overall brand image, and focus their marketing efforts accordingly. This discipline can also be applied to corporate reputation management. Company reputation drivers and their impact are often ill-defined. So, the foundational work of rebuilding corporation reputation is defining the reputation drivers and then quantifying their impact on overall corporate reputation.

Citi - Rebuilding Reputation: Where to Start ?

Citi - Rebuilding Reputation: Where to Start ?

Corporate Reputation Drivers – An Example

Here’s an example of what one large multinational company facing corporate reputation issues learned. First, they identified 25 reputation drivers via qualitative interviews with stakeholder groups. Second, quantitative research was conducted to understand the single variable impact of each driver in each group. Not surprisingly, the analysis showed that just 3 reputation drivers were having, by far, the most impact on corporate reputation.

  • Open & Transparent Communication – Research showed that this was a top factor driving corporate reputation—and had almost 10x the impact of most other factors. Stakeholders wanted the full picture—including what mistakes were made, why, what was learned, and most importantly what plans were in place to fix the problems so they would never happen again. For more on this topic, see my previous post: “Why Your Brand Needs to  be Open & Transparent.
  • Providing Good Value For Money – The second most important driver was how stakeholders perceived the products and services of the firm relative to cost. Understanding the importance of this led to additional research to more clearly define “good value for money” and how to deliver and communicate it more effectively to stakeholders.
  • Consistent & Stable Corporate Financial Performance – The company’s financial performance on average and over time was also a key driver. This is an “outcome” driver and one that only improves as the company actually turns words into deeds and delivers on its promised plans. But knowing its importance reinforced the need to communicate progress and results to stakeholders in a timely and comprehensive manner.

Stakeholder Tracking

Equally important to identifying and selecting the key reputation drivers is the continuous understanding of your stakeholder groups:

  • What are their most important issues and concerns?
  • What do they want to hear from senior management?

Stakeholder research helps you focus your messaging on the right topics, and tracking data shows whether your messages have been understood and internalized. What portion of key stakeholders are aware of your message? And do they really understand? Research is a critical step to “close the loop” and help you understand progress and make adjustments.

In the aftermath of the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression, Marketing has a new challenge – to help rebuild corporate reputation. CMO’s must think about their role more broadly than just building brand equity. They must work in partnership with Corporate Communications in a more systematic and disciplined manner to deliver what everyone should agree creates significant long term shareholder value–a strong brand and an improved corporate reputation.

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