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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Advertising Engagement: Giving Creative Credit Where Credit is Due

By Joshua Ziliak - September 7, 2011
Across brand-building disciplines, a chorus championing the virtue of measuring engagement in ad testing grows in number and volume with the emergence of each new digital channel. I and the rest of us at comScore ARS agree that advertising engagement is an essential component in understanding persuasion and effectiveness.

As online sample quality has improved over the years, so has the quality of diagnostic insight gleaned from these samples. For over a decade, comScore ARS, while fielding research on whether advertising effectively persuades (re: Lift in Share of Choice™ score), has also been systematically gathering audience diagnostics to help understand how advertising works.

We have studied the diagnostic responses to each of the ads tested with comScore ARS, and our research team has been pouring over the meta-data to understand the relationship between these diagnostics and the Lift in Share of Choice™ -- a KPI of the world’s largest advertisers. We’re learning how consumer brand preferences change with diagnostics of advertising engagement.

Two critical dimensions of ad engagement are “does the ad create a positive impression?” and “does the ad capture and maintain the viewer’s attention?” To quantify the aspect of a positive impression, comScore utilizes attitudinal measures such as ‘ad likability’ and ‘best I’ve seen recently’. To gauge interest, a real-time trace tool delivers the attitudinal data from which our analysis and conclusions are drawn.
The results of these studies have been powerful with a very clear takeaway: There is rarely meaningful persuasion without measurable engagement.

When trying to optimize campaign performance, it’s clear that engagement must be an objective in the opening salvo of your ad if it is to be persuasive. Of course, a brand generally wants to communicate some sort of message through its marketing, and would like to elicit action or to influence certain consumer attitudes. But engagement is the tie that binds these goals together, and it is generally the realm of creative.
Think of it like this: your ad stands virtually no chance of influencing behavior if it can’t attract the attention of consumers at the time of initial exposure. And just capturing their attention is insufficient if you can’t maintain their attention long enough for the brand message to be delivered.
comScore ARS studies the ad experience by leveraging our proprietary analytical framework, which consists of more than two dozen key diagnostic attributes. Does your ad engage consumers? Does it then communicate on message? Finally, does it influence the desired attitudes or action? These are the questions we ask to understand whether an ad will deliver your desired results in-market.
With that said, we have summarized below the key findings from our research on ad engagement:
1. Engagement diagnostics say as much about the effectiveness of an ad as do diagnostics related to Communication and Intent
When examining years of diagnostic data and comparing them against the tested brand’s Lift in Share of Choice™, the power of engagement pops in an undeniable way. Even more compelling is the role that ad engagement plays in generating lifts in Share of Choice™, showing that engagement deserves a prime place alongside traditional influence metrics like Willingness to Recommend and Purchase Intent. The data below shows that average lifts in Share of Choice are highest when an ad, in diagnostic testing, achieves higher than average consumer feedback on engagement.
Against even the most commonly accepted dimensions of persuasion, the power of engagement is evident. When evaluating the effectiveness of an ad, engagement diagnostics are just as important as those having to do with relevance, brand linkage and differentiation. The following data shows the same engagement results as the previous chart; only this time, compared against other diagnostic metrics that are often associated with successful advertising.
2. Early and sustained engagement predicts effectiveness Nearly all major copy-testing organizations now use some form of real-time interest tracking tool; but what comScore ARS has uniquely discovered is that the level of interest an ad generates, at both the opening and the end of exposure, is significantly correlated to the brand’s Lift in Share of Choice™.
In addition, we have discovered that while early engagement is good, holding engagement through to the end is even more important. As we can see below, ads that start creating interest at a higher rate than the benchmark also have a higher lift in Share of Choice, but the lift is even higher among ads exhibiting the highest levels of interest at the end.
3. If your creative is unique, but also irritating, chances are your ad will be less effective As a final note on engagement, do not forget that having unique creative does not mean breaking through the clutter no matter the cost to consumer sensibilities. The data below illustrates that the average Lift in Share of Choice™ is very high when consumer think the ad is unique; however, the most irritating ads also tend to have smaller lifts.
I’ve noticed more and more industry pundits calling for a renaissance in creative as a solution to the challenges of our brave new digital world. We at comScore ARS agree, and are excited to leverage our diagnostic experience and passion for creative development to help clients understand just how the art of creative and the science of brand-building measurement can work together to craft more effective advertising.

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