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IAB Report on Ad Engagement Serves as Industry Catalyst for Defining Core Digital Engagement Metrics

Paper Serves as Launching Point for New IAB Working Group to Define Ad Engagement Constructs, Interactions and Metrics in 2013

NEW YORK, NY (December 20, 2012) — The importance of establishing a much-needed framework for defining and rethinking ad engagement vernacular and metrics is the focus of a whitepaper released today by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) in collaboration with Radar Research. The report, titled “Digital Ad Engagement: An Industry Overview and Reconceptualization,” addresses a longstanding challenge faced by advertisers, publishers, agencies, marketers and a variety of other interactive industry participants for whom ad “engagement” is an essential device in digital advertising – yet one which lacks a precise and universal definition.

The paper also serves as a launching point for the creation of a new IAB Research Council working group that will be formed in 2013 to define a forward-looking ad engagement paradigm.

“For too long the concept of ad engagement has confounded stakeholders across the media landscape,” said Sherrill Mane, Senior Vice President, Research, Analytics and Management, IAB. “With the advent of digital analytics and highly sophisticated technologies for measuring user interactions, the engagement landscape has become overcrowded with hundreds of metrics that may or may not have value in understanding the effectiveness of ads.”

“Digital Ad Engagement: An Industry Overview and Reconceptualization” outlines how the term “engagement” is currently used by the interactive industry. The conclusion is that today, the term engagement actually describes three distinct phenomena:

  • Ad engagement: reviewing whether the creative is compelling and whether a consumer interacted with the ad in some way
  • Content engagement: gauging which content is most captivating on a site
  • Audience engagement: identifying which viewers are paying the most attention and are contributing to the conversation

Next, the whitepaper outlines three major categories of engagement that can be the basis of a new paradigm for defining what interactive ad engagement is and how it works:

  • Cognitive: awareness, interest and intention
  • Physical: user-initiated interaction
  • Emotional: affective

While the interactive advertising industry has stalemated over how to define ad engagement, innumerable interactions that can be tracked and fed into the concept of engagement have exploded, further exposing the “click-through” as an often-inadequate measurement and effectiveness device. The whitepaper lists three common proxies to cognitive measures of ad engagement:

  • Biometrics: unconscious physical reactions such as heart palpitations, pupil dilation and eye tracking
  • Surveys: self-reported engagement
  • Heatmaps: detailed data visualizations of visitor activity

Further, the whitepaper cites the growth of the following platforms as catalysts for an industry consensus and reconceptualization around ad interactions:

  • Video: play rate, play-through rate, completion rates, median video viewing time, share rates
  • Rich Media: display times, expansions, expansion times, interaction time/rate, form responses, game play, share rates
  • Mobile: click to call, map retail location, interaction rates, click to download, click to play, share rates

The IAB ad engagement whitepaper analyzes more than 30 interviews with publishers, agencies and research and analytics vendors. Importantly, the research includes input and viewpoints from companies that span the range of platforms that populate the interactive advertising landscape – such as display, search, mobile, video, social and rich media. The report was informed and guided by input from the following companies: Brand Keys,, BrightRoll, BUZZMEDIA, comScore, CondeNast, DraftFCB, Facebook, Forbes, Google, Hulu, Martini, Mediacom, Microsoft, Moat, The New York Times, Nielsen, Optimedia, Pictela, PointRoll, Sapient, Say Media, SessionM, ShareThis, ShareThrough, Starcom, Tapjoy, Turner, Univision, Vevo, Vibrant Media,, WildTangent, xAds, Yahoo!.

“We look forward to taking the insights introduced in this whitepaper to the next level, establishing practical definitions for practical knowledge about how digital advertising engages users and why that matters,” said Mane.

“Digital Ad Engagement: An Industry Overview and Reconceptualization” is available for download here.

In addition, to explore potential participation in the upcoming IAB Ad Engagement Working Group, please contact Kristina Sruoginis, Director, IAB at [email protected].

About Radar Research
Radar Research is a strategic consultancy focused on emerging media, culture and commerce. Co-founded in 2004 by veteran strategist Marissa Gluck, the company offers research and consulting services to companies and organizations in a broad range of business sectors, from hospitality and healthcare to finance and technology. Radar also offers analysis and expertise more broadly through published articles, engagements at conferences and events, and frequent appearances in the press. It has assisted scores of companies ranging from fledgling startups to the Fortune 500 in the development of new revenue streams, the creation of new business models and the positioning of new products. For more information, please visit

About the IAB
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is comprised of more than 500 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling 86% of online advertising in the United States. On behalf of its members, the IAB is dedicated to the growth of the interactive advertising marketplace, of interactive’s share of total marketing spend, and of its members’ share of total marketing spend. The IAB educates marketers, agencies, media companies and the wider business community about the value of interactive advertising. Working with its member companies, the IAB evaluates and recommends standards and practices and fields critical research on interactive advertising. Founded in 1996, the IAB is headquartered in New York City with a Public Policy office in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit

IAB Media Contact
Laura Goldberg
[email protected]