Ad tech: what’s an engagement?

It used to be that a click was a click. Advertisers bought banners and got clicks to their websites, end of story. Today, advertisers buy banners, video ads, native ads, second-screen ads, mobile ads, and many more. For these ads, they get clicks, roll-overs and swipes. To makes matters worse, these clicks, roll-overs and swipes are not to their websites anymore (at least not all of them). They’re interactions within the advert itself – image galleries, share buttons, likes, retweets, with only few of them going to the advertiser’s website. Because of this, it has become almost impossible to compare the impact of the different ad formats used within the same campaign. 

In an attempt to standardise these results, there’s a new metric adopted by a number of companies in the advertising ecosystem, called engagement. In theory, an engagement is any click, swipe or roll-over happening within an advert, regardless of its type. This can be swiping through an image gallery, retweeting, liking, etc. But what we’re seeing as of late is that different companies in the industry are starting to have their own interpretations of what an engagement is. Some look at every interaction within an ad, some at all interactions besides the first one (for example to launch an image gallery within a rich media advert) while some include both the interactions inside the unit as well as the clicks to the advertiser’s site. 

There’s a major benefit of having a widely adopted standard for engagement: by making it easy and straightforward for agencies and advertisers to understand the performance of their campaigns, they’ll spend more money on all these campaigns (provided that the results are good, but that’s a story for another post).

So at Brainient, we would like to suggest a standard definition for what an engagement is: any interaction on any element within an advert, except the click through on the ad itself (because this type of click is already known in the industry as a clickthru). Therefore, an engagement rate would be the total number of impressions divided by the total number of engagements within the ad. We’re trying to get this definition of engagement adopted by as many companies in the ecosystem as possible, so if you’re one of them and would like to contribute to creating the standard, please get in touch. 

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