World number two carmaker Toyota Motor and NBC Universal have announced a groundbreaking agreement in which the broadcast network will guarantee a specific level of viewer 'engagement' for its TV programs.

Neither party publicly defined the term 'engagement', although earlier this year Joe Plummer, chief research officer of the Advertising Research Foundation coined a marketing-related meaning: "Turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context" [WAMN: 23-Mar-06].

Although NBC is not the first US TV operator to offer a guarantee based on audience 'engagement' (Court TV has done so in the cable sector), it is the first broadcast network to ink such a deal.

Brags NBC evp sales and marketing Marianne Gambelli: "NBC understands the need to demonstrate commercial effectiveness, and we have aggressively created innovative solutions to help our clients achieve their marketing objectives and prove that our product works."

The automaker, as might be expected, was less hype-prone: "Toyota places a premium on working with media outlets that are committed to accountability. Beyond audience size, we want the networks to focus on attention-grabbing, highly engrossing shows that keep audiences tuned in," said corporate manager, marketing communications Kim McCullough.

The viewer guarantee will be tracked by using TV engagement scores supplied by IAG Research.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff