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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How Authentic Is Your Brand ?

June 23, 2009

Authenticity is a term we hear bandied about a lot these days, but it’s one that you need to pay particular attention to. In a recent post “What Marketers Can Learn From The Obama Campaign — Part 2,” I talked about the importance of authenticity in the Obama campaign. Authentic means honest, real and not manufactured–adhering to facts and supported by experience. And it’s increasing in importance because of several key factors.

What’s Driving The Need for Authenticity ?

  1. Crisis — The economic crisis revealed that things aren’t exactly what they seemed. Or, as Warren Buffet puts it: “when the tide goes out, you find out who’s wearing bathing suits.”
  2. Digital — The web has democratized information and consumer sharing. Brands are increasingly unable to hide as consumers uncover facts, inconvenient truths and rapidly share information. Advergirl.com has an excellent post on this at: “Social Media Demands Authentic Brands.
  3. Marketing Excess — An awful lot of Marketing feels like used car sales. Companies exaggerate their product benefits and often avoid the reality of their product experience. Marketers are partly responsible for consumers becoming jaded and less trustworthy of their messages.

Financial services marketing is a case in point. Battered by the economic crisis, subject to negative sentiment across the web, and Marketing that tells people to trust and be confident. In the land of happy, content, retired people walking on the beach and playing with grandchildren, few brands stand out as being different — and authentic.

Charles Schwab — An Authentic Brand

One brand that does is Charles Schwab. No doubt you’ve seen the unusual looking Schwab ads:

The Charles Schwab Brand -- An Authentic Marketing Message

The Charles Schwab Brand -- An Authentic Marketing Message

The ads have the air of authenticity. Why ? Because the Schwab brand:

  • Is irreverent– willing to say what other brands would rather not have you hear.
  • Shows real people saying what they think– and connecting with consumers real world experience.
  • Encourages a conversation: “talk to Chuck.” How can a brand be authentic without conversation ?

Becky Saeger, Head of Marketing at Charles Schwab notes:

“One of the most important and challenging things financial services companies are faced with today is rebuilding the trust of consumers. This principle of authenticity is central to rebuilding trust and conveying that you are trustworthy: You cannot TELL people to trust you, or even convince them to by telling them why they should. Every manifestation of your brand–from communications to products to human or web interactions–needs to be true to the promises of the brand, and deliver the actions that are proof of those promises and collectively signal trustworthiness. The only way I know to do that is for your brand and your marketing, and therefore all of the above, to be grounded in the authentic purpose and values of your company. Yes, this is a huge and potentially lofty goal, maybe even more an aspiration. But how else can you trust that your brand–buffeted about in the wild and crazy, social, digital, consumer-in-control world we live in–will rise above the fray and earn the trust of those very savvy and often disappointed consumers?”

Authenticity and Creativity

A final point. Authentic doesn’t equal boring. The Schwab campaign is very differentiated in the financial services space. The use of rotoscope animation enables the campaign to both feel authentic and look differentiated at the same time. A real creative hat trick and one that other Marketers could learn from.

So how does your brand rate on the authenticity scale ?

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