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Does mobile engagement ring true? The need for a total media perspective

by John Carroll , 27.07.2017

I always like people-watching on my morning commute on the train. Not in a weird way you understand. There are people sleeping, reading, watching and listening. But nobody talks.

There are several people staring vacantly into their mobile phones, scrolling and clicking. The man opposite me reads his free morning newspaper. Another is working and listening to music on his earphones. A woman watches a TV programme on her tablet. While Zenith predicts there will be a 35% increase in viewing on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) to 28.8 minutes a day, I wonder how engaged these people really are in what they are doing. Furthermore, I wonder how one can compare those differing levels of engagement, however great or small, across the various media being consumed on the 55 minute train ride.

How to compare mobile engagement

It is the mobile engagement that intrigues me. I have seen it defined as the level of interaction between a brand and consumer via a mobile device. The more frequent the interactions, the higher the engagement. Apparently, people check their mobile phones 150 times a day. How should we compare multiple, short duration activities on a mobile with single, long duration activities, such as watching TV or listening to the radio?

Advertising spend for mobile is forecast to have a 37% share of all media ad spend by 2021 (eMarketer). Yet there exists no uniform measure of digital ad effectiveness. Some work has been done a while ago that claims a link exists between exposure time and CTR/CPA performance. But cases have also been reported of networks buying traffic to sites and having between 75% and 95% of hits coming from bots, or non-human traffic, which opens up the thorny issue of click fraud and unverified data; or as I call it, the Internet of Sins.

Is duration a valid online metric?

I question the value of using duration in online metrics. Even a cursory observation of the smartphone users on my commute and one can argue that is the perfect definition of non-human traffic! Ironically, these are the same people who are so engaged when reading their smartphone screens walking through the city streets that they bump into several people coming the other way. I swear I saw one walk right into a digital outdoor advertising screen. They literally could not see an advert if it hit them in the face!

Providing a ‘total media’ perspective

Measuring the impact of mobile cannot be done in isolation. More advanced media measurement techniques are required to support a deeper understanding of the continually evolving media landscape. Our measurement philosophy is to provide a ‘total media’ perspective through smartly integrating media and consumer data on our Media Measurement platform. In this way, we can really see how mobile is performing alongside other media.

Mobile engagement rings true in combination with other media

For example, where measuring mobile engagement can work is for radio. For me, it is a chance to continue listening from the breakfast table through to the office desk, varying 3G/4G quality and tube travel notwithstanding. RAJAR reports that 25% of UK adults listen to the radio via mobile phone or tablet at least once a month (RAJAR Q1 2017), and 9 million listen through their earphones. It is a personal device made for a personal medium for a personal relationship. As the late BBC radio breakfast broadcaster, Terry Wogan, replied when asked how many listeners he had: “Only one.”

John Carroll is Global Director, Business Development, Media Measurement at GfK. He can be reached at john.carroll@gfk.com or followed on Twitter @MediaCarroll.

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