November 06, 2013

Engagement And The YouTube Music Awards

Online advocates have been trying to convince us that the proper measurement of online success is "engagement."

Engagement is a very imprecise and confusing term. Nobody can agree on what engagement means, how to measure it, or what value it has.

So it’s the perfect flavor of online unaccountability. Just like we disguise our traditional advertising failures behind branding ("it's not supposed to sell, it's a branding ad") we now hide our online failures behind "engagement ("clicks mean nothing.")

As Martin Weigel, head of planing at Wieden+Kennedy's Amsterdam office says,
"‘Engagement’ is an unworkable and meaningless concept. It means everything. And absolutely nothing. And as such it cannot possibly claim to be any kind of metric.
Searching, viewing, visits, spending time on site or page, opening promotional e-mails, completing a survey, page views, linking, bookmarking, blogging, forwarding, following, referring, clicking, friending, liking, +1-ing, playing, reading, subscribing, posting, printing, reviewing, recommending, rating, co-creating, discussing,...uploading, downloading, adding an item to favourites, joining a group, installing a widget...All of these and more are potential measures of ‘engagement’...It really is time to call bullshit on ‘engagement’. Better, to bundle it into a coffin labelled ‘Agency Puffery’ and put a nail firmly in it once and for all.”
Let's take a real-world look at engagement and see how it translates into consumer behavior.

Last week, Google, oops, I mean YouTube, put on its first YouTube Music Awards featuring two of the biggest stars on the planet, Eminem and Lady Gaga.

According to YouTube press releases, they received over 60 million votes for these awards. Get 60 million actions of any kind and you've hit the engagement jackpot. And yet...

According to reports I've read, YouTube only averaged about 180,000 viewers at any particular time.

In other words, for every "engagement" action there were about .003 as many people actually watching the show at any given moment.

This is not the kind of "return on engagement" that is likely to build confidence in engagement as anything other than another bullshit "metric" dreamed up by the ad industry.

And if that's all you can do with Eminem and Gaga, imagine the results without them.


ananonymousmouse said...

Call me a skeptic, but 180.000 at any given time seems way too low.

Cecil B. DeMille said...

Engagement may be the result for an agency but the bigger gorilla in the room is media cost. What audience can the YouTube Music Awards (I snicker every time I say or write this) reliably deliver to a marketer? All of those things Martin points out are things YouTube would use to crowbar money out of some dimwit advertiser.

The truth is, it doesn't matter because any ad you were to insert into an online music award "show" would be skipped, or the viewer would stop watching.

Anthony said...

"The truth is, it doesn't matter because any ad you were to insert into
an online music award "show" would be skipped, or the viewer would stop

This is an important point, but also short sighted. If a Youtube ad is skipped, the advertiser does not pay a penny. So no one loses, in fact, the advertiser just received 5 seconds of no-cost air time.

That's worth *almost* nothing, but still, almost nothing is not nothing.

Advertisers only pay for a true-view ad that is watched for at least 15 seconds, 10 sec. past the viewers initial point of being able to skip.

So where's the problem? I don't see it. You pay for ads that people actually watch, and don't pay for ads not watched.

James said...

Is the problem measuring "at any one time". Do people watch this after the event too? I'd want to know how many people in total watched it in say a 4 week window. This could still be a very small number, or maybe a bigger number. In short I'd want some good old fashioned (useful) metrics

Cecil B. DeMille said...

The trouble is that they still don't work worth a shit. Not having to pay for skipped ads is a booby prize. It may be the most honest of online ad methods, but it also underlines how ridiculously irrelevant online ads (and the non-events that they're sold in) truly are.

On TV, I can skip ads, too. By changing channels. Surfing around. They don't refund the money when I do that because they don't have to – TV ads work. Thousands of brands have been built with TV ads. Online ads can make no such claim and I doubt they ever will.

Short sighted? That would be buying ads in the YouTube Music Awards in the first place. In my opinion. But what do I know? I haven't done shit since my second crack "The Ten Commandments."

Vitor said...

I don't know, Cecil. At least here in Brazil, creatives have been taking the five seconds into account when creating YouTube ads. If you look closely, people have started to put surprising elements precisely in the fifth second, in order to prevent viewers from skipping.

What's really amazing is that this is working. Some YouTube-only ads have millions of views. And more: many of the comments say things like "The first YouTube ad I didn't want to skip in, like, ever".

But I guess that just proves what we all now: if you have a good idea, it works in whatever medium it is put.

Cecil B. DeMille said...

Waiting until the fifth second to get someone's attention is like waiting until December to get a sun tan. That train already left.

I appreciate great ideas and it's good news that creatives are able to apply lipstick to pigs. The problem is that it's still a giant waste of time because 999,999 times out of a million, the result is ambivalence. This is like the old "viral" debate. You can't create viral with the intent of it being viral. Viral happens on its own. That's why it's viral.

Perhaps you're observing a sea change. Perhaps you're observing the exception to the onerous rule of online ads sucking. I don't know which. But I'll bet you can guess which way I'm leaning.