Rating Ads Won't Produce Answers

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The advertising industry's goal to be responsible for consumer engagement is headed for another big detour as the Association of National Advertisers now moves the discussion to why Nielsen cannot produce ratings for each commercial.

The industry is aligned in terms of its goals: to be able to pull weaker spots and heavy-up on stronger performers, to predict creative wear-out, to understand the impact of DVRs, and—most important—to provide tangible metrics for consumer engagement.

But why accept a surrogate metric like viewership? Why not measure the real thing: actual interaction?

Smart advertisers like American Express, Johnson & Johnson, L'Oreal Paris and Verizon began doing this a long time ago by adding two simple interactive enhancements to their commercials: the toll-free number and the URL.

These triggers allow television to function as the point-of-entry for deeper, more genuine engagement. When consumers are willing to tell us how long they've had diabetes and how they deal with it, we know they're engaged.

When they spend time on a Website to experiment with different hair-color options, we know they've found our creative appealing and our brand solutions motivating.

And when they fill out a credit-card application online or sign up for the new DSL package, we know our spots have worked.

There's an additional irony with a viewership metric for each commercial. Viewership per se does not yield engagement. Five years of testing has shown us at ID Media that the elements that may produce likeability, such as humor, do not necessarily yield bona fide engagement—that is, a phone call or a click. In fact, sometimes there's a reverse correlation.

Why waste time—one of marketers' most valuable commodities in today's fast-changing landscape—arguing about potentially fallacious metrics like commercial ratings? Do something you can do today. Look at which programs, dayparts and networks get consumers to spend the most time with you on your Websites. You'll be surprised. And for a real wake-up call, count the volume of those visitors by each TV element and how much it cost to get them there. These are the metrics that will lead you down a whole new path to consumer activation, engagement and return on investment.

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