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THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                   1 The Hidden Value of Engagement: Online ...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                           2                                ...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                             3      In a June 22, 2009 press...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                               4mean less advertising value ...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                              5changes in brand sentiment, o...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                               6from the passive television ...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                           7studies, to identify engagement ...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                            8advertisements within an unsucc...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                             9      Like Kilger and Romer (2...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                             10shows with significant fan bas...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                             11      The survey method and r...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                          12      After the filter question, ...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                           13Independent Variables      The ...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                        14additional focus group targeting o...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                           15                               ...
THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT                                                         16      www.adweek.com/aw/content_d...
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The Hidden Value of Engagement: Online Television Fans Offer Increased Advertising Value than Offline Television Watchers

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A 2009 literature review and research proposal as part of the Masters in Communication program at The Johns Hopkins University.

The launch of the website Wetpaint.com, the first, and ground-breaking, ranking system for online engagement for television show viewers, inspired this study into the affect of online behavior on advertising success. Research suggests that engagement can lead to positive advertising responses, indicating that online engagement may represent a new way to identify more valuable segments of the viewing audience. A national survey evaluated the change in attitudes and behavior demonstrated by a television-viewing audience that participates in online fan activities, showing that some viewers may be more valuable than others.

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Transcript of "The Hidden Value of Engagement: Online Television Fans Offer Increased Advertising Value than Offline Television Watchers"

  1. 1. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 1 The Hidden Value of Engagement: Online Television Fans Offer Increased Advertising Value than Offline Television Watchers Nicole E. Cathcart The Johns Hopkins University
  2. 2. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 2 AbstractThe launch of the website Wetpaint.com, the first, and ground-breaking, ranking system foronline engagement for television show viewers, inspired this study into the affect of onlinebehavior on advertising success. Research suggests that engagement can lead to positiveadvertising responses, indicating that online engagement may represent a new way to identifymore valuable segments of the viewing audience. A national survey evaluated the change inattitudes and behavior demonstrated by a television-viewing audience that participates in onlinefan activities, showing that some viewers may be more valuable than others.
  3. 3. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 3 In a June 22, 2009 press release, Ben Elowitz, CEO of Wetpaint.com, the first online tooldesigned to measure television engagement through online activity, announced, “It’s clear thereis a fundamental decentralization underway in how consumers experience TV programming, butthe measurement tools have remained substantially the same” (Wetpaint, 2009). Long dominatedby the Nielsen rating system for determining advertising values, the $136.8 billion televisionadvertising industry (Nielsen, 2009) has used reach, or the number of people watching aprogram, to set rates since the dawn of advertising. As the television audience per programshrinks, growing more segmented (Katz, 1996), networks and advertisers must investigate newpossibilities for measuring value beyond a mass audience. In 2008, MTV Networks (MTVN) contracted Harris Interactive and MauroNewMedia touncover new measures for the audience value for their television series The Hills (McClellan,2008). An online survey measured differences in brand sentiments for The Hills’s advertiserPepsi between a viewing only audience and a viewing and actively engaged online audience.Participation in online communities about The Hills defined online engagement. The resultsshowed an astounding difference in how each audience perceived the Pepsi brand. Amongoffline viewers, 30% found Pepsi in touch with youth culture and 15% viewed Pepsi as “hip”brand. For offline viewers and online participants, 70% considered Pepsi hip and in touch withyouth (2008). MTVN revealed the results of this survey during the 2008 upfronts, a key eventfor setting rates and selling television advertising, as a way to demonstrate additional value foradvertisers seeking their demographic. Their research represents one of the first publicizedefforts on the part of television networks to show that a smaller audience does not necessarily
  4. 4. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 4mean less advertising value if a network shows that smaller audience actively engages online inprogramming-related activities. Engagement for a television audience can be defined as an emotional connection tocontent that results in greater levels of positive brand sentiment and intent to purchase foradvertised products (Greenwald & Leavitt, 1984; Heath, 2009; Marci, 2006). If a segment ofthe viewing audience, also defined as fans, demonstrates a higher level of engagement then theyare a more valuable advertising target. All viewers, then, are not created equal−those whoactively participate in online fan communities may demonstrate greater value through theirperceptions of advertising. Although audience size will always be an important measure in determining placementvalues, this new measure of engagement represents an additional dimension to audience valuethat could change the way networks develop television advertising rates. The example of MTVshows that this process has already started for some networks. In an effort to bring scholarlyanalysis to an issue that affects the future of advertising rates, this study will show that thesegment of the television viewing audience that participates in online fan communities displays agreater level of engagement than those not online, and that the online engagement can betranslated into increased advertising value. Literature Review The study of engagement in advertising has grown prominent over the last few years asacademic and industry leaders have searched for new measures of success in a media-diverseworld. Engagement, rooted in an emotional response, affects both consumer attitude andbehavior. Although intent to purchase behavior remains its most valuable measure of success,
  5. 5. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 5changes in brand sentiment, or attitude, also represent value to advertisers. These two effects ofengagement stem from an emotional connection to programming content that television viewerstransfer to embedded advertising messages.Emotions, Loyalty and Involvement between Online Fans and Television Programs The proliferation of online fan communities has sparked research regarding the nature ofthe online users’ connection to their favorite television programs as well as the personality traits,attitudes and behaviors of online fans. One common theme emerges in these studies—theemotional connection fans have to the content of their favorite television programming fuelstheir engagement levels. The emotional connection to a television series stems from perceived or desired intimacybetween characters and community participants (Bowen, 2008). In a survey and analysis ofonline fan communities, notably fans of the television series NYPD Blue, Bowen suggested thatbeyond identifying with characters, once fans move online, they begin to identify with theirfellow community members and activities, intensifying their connection to the programming.The attention to detail and discussion around each character and plot development and theavailability of images, direct quotations and other media online help develop that perceivedintimacy. Although that intimacy currently remains one-sided, online television communities havegrown into forums where decision-makers in television production can gain inside knowledge onwhat fans think of their programming. Using in-depth interviews of television producers and aweb site case study, Andrejevic (2008) showed significant viewer loyalty linked to onlineengagement in TV fan communities. These fan communities represent a larger shift in media
  6. 6. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 6from the passive television viewer to the active participant in an online community. This passionfor the programming creates a user engaged in everything from the marketing approach for afavorite show to the characters and story. This idea of a passionate, engaged and active online user reflects the results of a survey of757 online television fans. Costello & Moore (2007) found the group to be loyal, ofteninterested in actively changing the narrative direction of their favorite TV shows, seeingthemselves as engaged stakeholders, rather than mere consumers. In fact, the fans’ unusuallyhigh-involvement in programming may indicate a personality prone to greater levels or extremesof consumption. Whether the participation in online communities enhances this emotion connection or ifthe emotional connection manifests itself through online participation remains unclear.However, the emotional connection itself seems real. The level of online participation inforums, blogs and other online communities can be measured through online traffic, commentingand posting. These measures begin to shape a quantitative value for an emotional connection, orengagement, to a television program.Emotional Engagement and its Affect on Attitudes Engagement, and the related theory of involvement, has preoccupied advertisingresearchers for over thirty years in an effort to understand what drives advertising success. Inthis context of this study, engagement refers to an emotional connection between the audienceand desired stimulus that can ultimately affect brand sentiment and purchasing intent. Manyadvertising engagement studies have utilized physiological experiments, namely eye-tracking
  7. 7. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 7studies, to identify engagement in stimulus and how that effect changes based on audiencesentiment towards advertising context. Defining engagement as an emotional connection differentiates its effect from that ofattention in processing information. In an eye-tracking study performed on 17 subjects tomeasure attention and engagement, Heath (2009) concluded that successful advertisingengagement depended on an emotional, not rational, connection to stimulus. The difference herebetween attention and engagement parallels the difference between a rational and emotionalresponse to stimulus. In contrast to the unconscious reactions measured by Heath, Cunningham, Hall & Young(2006) utilized a self-reported flow of emotion (FOE) in their study of 640 MTV viewers toisolate a highly-engaged segment within a viewing audience. The researchers used a higherFOE to identify the highly-engaged viewers and then correlated their greater emotional responseto programming with a positive response to its contained advertising. As evidenced by the spikesand dips in the FOE in the Cunningham, et al. (2006) study, the programming content constantlyaffected levels of the highly-engaged viewer’s emotions, even if those emotions remainproportionally high. The user remains affected by the content, actively responding emotionallyto the changing stimulus. Although the viewer is constantly affected by programming content, the content itselfdefines the initial levels of emotional engagement. Advertising within programming content ofinterest to the viewer greatly affects its success. A 2006 experiment with 27 adult males thatmeasured biometric responses associated with emotion when viewing commercials within twodifferent television programs (Marci). Advertisements within a proven successful televisionshow garnered greater emotional engagement from participants when compared to
  8. 8. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 8advertisements within an unsuccessful show. Marci’s (2006) study begins to link an audience’senjoyment of programming to their emotional response to advertising, albeit by loose affiliatingresponses within generally successful and unsuccessful television programs. The long history of engagement research continues to connect emotional responses tofavorable advertising outcomes, both through unconscious and conscious research techniques.Although other factors contribute to advertising response rates, such as the creative value ofadvertising (Cunningham, et al., 2006; Heath, 2009), emotional affect plays a consistentlycorrelated role in success.Emotional Engagement and its Affect on Behavior While the emotional or attitudinal affect of an advisement represents a relevantintermediate outcome, the true measure of success for advertisers remains influencing behaviorthrough intent to purchase. While increasing positive brand sentiment may eventually lead tosuccess, advertising must prove itself through generating revenue. These studies present the finallink between engagement and purchase intent by demonstrating that key change in behavior.They also suggest that engagement outweighs other notable variables in advertising, includingdelivery medium, quantity of information and audience demographics. In a study of 29,044 adults, researchers found, across television, magazine and onlinemedia usage, the higher the overall engagement, the higher the level of intent to purchase (Kilger& Romer, 2007). In this study, even viewer demographics did not affect purchasing as much asengagement, further emphasizing the need for change in advertising for the television industry.General demographic factors such as age and race have historically played a large role indetermining advertising rates, where measures of engagement are absent.
  9. 9. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 9 Like Kilger and Romer (2007), Young (2004) concluded that higher emotion correlatedpositively to purchase intent, but in his study, engagement proves more important in drivingdecisions than quantity of information in messaging. In an evaluation of 120 commercials by125-150 respondents using measures of attention, attitude and behavior, Young found thatwhether the viewers “liked” the commercials related to their overall emotional response.However, the commercials were evaluated on their own rather than within a programmingcontext. For the purposes of this study, programming content creates an important magnifyingeffect on advertisement success. In one of the most directly applicable studies in the literature, Norris and Colman (1993)correlated engagement to different genres of television programs with positive affects on brandrecall and sentiment through their experiment and survey. The study exposed 90 participants to aseries of commercials within three genres of programming to test recall and attitudes toadvertising within different contexts. As the level of participant involvement in programminggrew, the higher the level of brand recall and intent to purchase became. The value of participant involvement here is of particular interest, providing a more directlink between television program engagement and purchase intent behaviors. Engagement as adriver of behavior, more significant than demographics or quantity of information in anadvertisement, lays a foundation for how engaged segments of a television viewing audiencemay respond positively to advertised brands within their favorite programs. More importantly,these studies suggest that the positive emotional correlation between programming andembedded advertising may increase viewers’ intent to purchase advertised brands. The positive emotional response defined as engagement allows advertisers to benefit froma positive audience reaction to the television program containing their advertising. Television
  10. 10. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 10shows with significant fan bases, characterized by a proportionally greater emotionalinvolvement of viewers and demonstrated by their participation in forums, blogs and other onlinecommunities, inspire segments of the viewing population that are highly-engaged. Thepreceding studies show that engagement, characterized by positive emotions, can affect attitudesand behavior in advertising response, notably brand sentiment and purchase intent. It followsthat running advertisements within a program that has a highly-engaged segment givesadvertisers extra value beyond mere reach, demographics, or other traditional advertising valuemeasures. Thus, three hypotheses emerge: H1: Television audience members who participate in online fan communities for their favorite television programs display emotional attachment and engagement to those programs. H2: When advertising is placed within a television program enjoyed by viewers, the audience grows more engaged in the advertising, reflecting higher levels of positive brand sentiment and intent to purchase. H3: The audience members who watch a television show and participate in its online television fan communities represent a proportionally greater advertising value than the mass viewing audience. Method The size of the engaged online audience rests outside of the scope of this study. Thepurpose here is to show the link between online activity and greater brand sentiments andpurchase intent. Additionally, the study proposes initial metrics for measuring the additionaladvertising value of an engaged online audience.
  11. 11. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 11 The survey method and random sampling technique allowed the research to begeneralized in an effort to create a foundation for quantitative research in this field. Also, anational random sampling mechanism more closely matches the current Nielsen family ratingssystem, since that particular method could not be duplicated without considerable investment,both in time and money. The television program Bones was chosen for questioning, representing both a ratingssuccess with a mass audience and an engaged online audience. A prime time network show,Bones’ 2009 season finale totaled an estimated 8.7 million viewers (Hibberd, 2009) andaccording to Wetpaint’s touted TV Fandex index has peaked at the fourth most talked abouttelevision program online (TV Fandex 100, n.d.). Due to its success in attracting a massaudience and cultivating online engagement through fan participation in forums, blogs andonline communities about the show (all measured according to existing industry tools) theprogram served as the example for measuring the significance in online engagement foradvertising attitudes and behavior. A national telephone survey of 1,500 American adults, aged 15-49, was conducted thenight of the live broadcast of the television show, minimizing the affect of time on recall.Although an online survey would have increased the response rate, the method may havedecreased validity because of questions related to online activities. The sample would already beonline; therefore, they would be more likely to engage in online communities. Two advertisersrunning new advertisements during the Bones time slot, but not during any other programmingwere evaluated. Both advertisements were for broad-based consumer products with no directassociation with programming, a household cleaning product and a beer company.
  12. 12. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 12 After the filter question, “Did you watch the new Bones episode this evening?”eliminated irrelevant targets, qualified respondents were asked to quantify their emotionalconnection to Bones through a series of questions related to the show characters and content.Questions to measure emotional connections included: “Do you admire the character of Dr.Temperance Brennan?”; “Do you wish you had a friend like Agent Booth?”; and “Do you thinkSpecial Agent Booth and Dr. Brennan should be become involved romantically?” Questionswere presented with a five-point Likert scale with end points “Strongly agree” and “Stronglydisagree” to measure the intensity of emotions.Dependent Variables The two dependent variables measures in the survey were brand sentiment and purchaseintent. Questions were asked about the two brands advertised in the live airing. After basicrecall questions, respondents were asked to rate their perceptions of brand quality and perceivedalignment with product brand values. For the household cleaning product, questions included:“Do you think this product would effectively clean your house?”; “Would this product makecleaning easier?”; and “Would this product eliminate germs in your house?” To determinepurchase intent, respondents were asked, “Would you purchase this product in the next 30 days?”Both brand sentiment and purchase intent questions were presented with a five-point Likert scalewith end points “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” to measure the intensity of emotions.Demographic questions on gender, race and age were included to evaluate any significant gendervariance between product types.
  13. 13. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 13Independent Variables The two independent variables were whether an respondent viewed the televisionprogram live the night in question and whether the respondent went online to engage in activitiesrelated to the television show. The respondent’s going online served as the criterion variable.The level of online engagement was measured with a series of questions, including, “Do youparticipate in online chat rooms for Bones at least once a month?”; “Do you go online to readspoilers for future episodes of Bones at least once a month?”; “Do you go online to read or writeBones fan fiction at least once a month?”; and “Do you read any Bones-related blogs at leastonce a month?” The questions were crafting using various types and degrees of socially-acceptable behavior to maximize respondent honesty. Each question was presented with a “yes”or “no” answer to gather nominal data.Analysis Techniques and Limitations The data were analyzed using a Chi-square bivariate test, calculating degrees of freedomand alpha level to determine statistical significance. The coefficient of determination wasdetermined to show correlation among online activity and greater levels of positive brandsentiment and purchase intent. In addition to a low response rate, this method’s limitations included the relative samplesize of the target, the highly-engaged, online fan of Bones, within the population. Althoughgeneralizability was the intention behind using this particular quantitative method, the key groupin question represented only a very small segment, increasing the chance of sampling error. An
  14. 14. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 14additional focus group targeting only the engaged online viewers might yield the same findingswith greater findings in motivations that can inform future research design.
  15. 15. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 15 ReferencesAndrejevic, M. (2008). Watching Television Without Pity: The productivity of online fans. Television & New Media, 9(1), 24-46.Bowen, T. (2008). Romancing the screen: An examination of moving from television to the world wide web in a quest for quasi-intimacy. Journal of Popular Culture, 41(4), 569-590.Costello, V., & Moore, B. (2007). Cultural outlaws: An examination of audience activity and online television fandom. Television & New Media, 8(2), 124-143.Cunningham, T., Hall, A.S., & Young, C. (2006). The advertising magnifier effect: An MTV study. Journal of Advertising Research, 46(4), 369-380.Heath, R. (2009). Emotional engagement: How television builds big brands at low attention. Journal of Advertising Research, 49(1), 62-73.Hibberd, J. (2009, May 15). Finale ratings: ‘Grey’s,’ ‘Office,’ ‘CSI,’ ‘Hell’s,’ ‘Bones’. The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 9, 2009 from http://www.thrfeed.com/2009/05/ finale-ratings-greys-office-csi-hells.htmlKatz, E. (1996, July). And deliver us from segmentation. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 546, 22-33.Kilger, M. & Romer, E. (2007). Do measures of media engagement correlate with product purchase likelihood? Journal of Advertising Research, 47(3), 313-325.Marci, C.D. (2006). A biologically based measure of emotional engagement: Context matters. Journal of Advertising Research, 46(4), 381-387.McClellan, S. (2008, May 5). ‘The Hills’ is alive: MTV research links cross-platform marketing to brand affinity among web users. AdWeek. Retrieved August 8, 2009 from http://
  16. 16. THE HIDDEN VALUE OF ENGAGEMENT 16 www.adweek.com/aw/content_display/news/media/ e3i26f1bfd408799a20da8594bee639d74c?pn=1Nielsen Wire (2009, March 13). Nielsen reports 2008 U.S. ad spend down 2.6%. Blog posted to http: //blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/consumer/nielsen-reports-2008-us-ad-spend- down-26/Norris, C.E., & Colman, A.M. (1993). Context effects on memory for television advertisements. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 21(4), 279-296.TV Fandex 100. (n.d.).  Retrieved August 9, 2009, from http://www.wetpaint.com/page/ TVFandexWang, A. (2006). Advertising engagement: A driver of message involvement on message effects. Journal of Advertising Research, 46(4), 355-368.Wetpaint. (2009, June 22). TV fandex first to measure “Engagement” rather than just viewership of popular TV programming [Press release]. Retrieved August 8, 2009, from http: // press.wetpain.com/page/TV+Fandex+First+to+Measure+“Engagement”+Rather+Than +Just+Viewership+of+Popular+TV+ProgrammingYoung, C.E. (2004). Capturing the flow of emotion in television commercials: A new approach. Journal of Advertising Research, 44(2), 202-209.

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