US Research Guru Defines Adland's Holy Grail

23 March 2006

"The medium is the message", famously said Marshall McLuhan.

"Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image", opined David Ogilvy.

"Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context": Joe Plummer.

The begetter of the last aphorism, Advertising Research Foundation chief research officer Joe Plummer, now joins the immortals in advertising Valhalla - despite being demonstrably alive and kicking at this week's annual ARF conference in New York.

Plummer has gathered together the first two great advertising truths and delivered them to the global advertising industry along with a third: his own long awaited definition of a new media metric. 'Engagement', the marketing industry's equivalent of the Holy Grail.

AdAge judged Plummer's dictum "short, sweet and maybe even a little sexy", at the same time asking what it actually meant in terms of measuring the effectiveness of a marketer's advertising dollar.

Plummer and his fellow toilers at the ARF clearly agree with AdAge. In coming months they intend to validate the term and develop quantifiable measures of 'engagement'.

Which is only half the battle. The other half is tougher.

Persuading those on both sides of the media fence - for decades raised on the mother's milk of counting eyeballs - to accept a more consumer-centric evaluation of how well ads work. And even if Plummer is eventually hailed as the new McLuhan, how long will that take?

But there are other powerful advocates of the 'engagement' concept, among them such hard-nosed advertisers as Ford Motor Company, Masterfoods and Procter & Gamble - all of which have supported the ARF project for best part of a year [WAMN: 21-Jul-05].

Marketers' muscle, rather than the shedding of media-buyers' reflexes, will likely drive the concept through to fruition.

Meantime, Plummer might well refer skeptics to the words of co-immortal, Marshall McLuhan: "We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff