I read with some interest the coverage in Advertising Age of the new "Viewer Engagement Rankings" that are currently in discussion within television circles. The story goes something like this: For time everlasting, the entire economic structure of the TV market has been based on total audience, the number of viewers tuned into a program. Whoever had the most viewers got the biggest check. But now, in the age of the DVR, it's being proposed that measures of engagement -- recall of the program itself, of product placements, of commercial messages -- take center stage. The result would be that a program like Chuck with 3.4 million viewers would be worth more than American Idol with millions more.
If Scooby Doo were watching, this would be the point in the story where he'd make that really confused Scooby sound, tilt his head and look really surprised.
While stunningly radical from an industry point of view, in terms of simple economics and value exchange it makes all the sense in the world. All but the most serious dead-enders understand the attention damage the DVR has done to spots and to the programs themselves. Finding a way to truly value attention and engagement and bring them into the economic mix at a time like this would be incredibly prescient.
But the realist in me says it's never going to happen. That this is nothing more than a bit of misdirection, sleight of hand intended to distract marketers and convince them that real reform is on the way.....really! But my real purpose in writing this post is to send a message about engagement in digital media. No page on the World Wide Web exists until a consumer asks to see it, and no advertisements exist until that page is rendered. You want engagement? This seems an awfully good place to start the conversation about engagement with the marketer.
It's nice to believe that some day television buyers and sellers will get religion about the issue of engagement. Until then, digital media will continue to develop and define the nature of a truly engaged, interactive relationship with the consumer.