LAS VEGAS: Alan Wurtzel, NBC Universal president for research and media development, on Wednesday grabbed the rapt attention of delegates at the Information Resources Summit in the Nevada Nirvana. A feat achieved by the simple expedient of sticking out his neck.

In the forthcoming upfront bazaar, promised Wurtzel, NBC will offer any advertiser a guarantee of audience engagement with its programs - a move that confers currency status on a concept whose precise meaning has yet to be universally defined.

The nearest to an accepted definition came last year from Joe Plummer, chief research officer of the Advertising Research Foundation, who coined this somewhat bleary description: "Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context" [WAMN: 23-Mar-06].

NBC, however, has pinned down 'engagement' with a tad more exactitude. Based on a deal struck with Toyota in the 2006 upfront, the broadcaster will use data from IAG Research's 1.5-million-strong online consumer panel. This measures viewers' engagement by their recall of specific program details.

Among advertisers known to have used IAG's engagement metrics are Johnson & Johnson, Verizon and Home Depot. It is also believed that Procter & Gamble, General Motors and American Express have also dabbled with this latterday philosophers' stone.

The timing of Wurtzel's announcement is not without significance. It precedes by twenty-four hours the American Association of Advertising Agencies' three-day Media Conference and Tradeshow - also being held in Sin City.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff