Direct can teach brands lots about engagement

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During last year's Academy Awards ceremony, 11% of viewers tracked by Nielsen's Convergence Panel simultaneously watched the Oscars on TV and followed them on the Internet. Nielsen Online also said that people who used Facebook while watching the broadcast spent an average of 76 minutes there, and it estimated more than 100,000 messages were Tweeted during the show.

It makes good sense, then, that the Academy and several advertisers are using the extravaganza to vault consumer-engagement programs into viewers' living rooms.

The Academy streamed its nominations announcement live on Facebook to a global audience and asked fans to post questions to stars. It plans to collect e-mail addresses and mobile data from consumers as well.

We have seen a common theme, first with the Super Bowl, then the Winter Olympics, of marketers using direct marketing tactics in promotions around popular events.

Engagement and interaction with brands is now a requirement for success, and marketers must be adept across platforms, from television to direct mail to social media to mobile applications.

The challenge is in tying these channels together to measure effectiveness across media. Maintaining a dialogue with customers is paramount, but doing so in a way that enables marketers to track those efforts is not a present reality. Cross-channel measurement and attribution is still a black box, and marketers need to crack it in order to slice and dice marketing dollars across media and better determine which channels work well together to maximize campaign effectiveness and minimize budget waste. Lack of technology, common metrics and siloed data remain stumbling blocks.

The issue is top of mind for marketers. In December, the Advertising Research Foundation brought together media research minds at the first ever ARF 360 Measurement Day Workshop to address cross-channel communications planning. Panelists and speakers from the media community were well represented, with usual suspects present such as GlaxoSmithKline, NBC Universal and Starcom Mediavest Group. Absent from the gathering were direct marketing proponents, except for marketing services giant Experian, which participated through its Simmons research subsidiary. Media industry experts tend to hail from the television and media agency communities, where the bulk of media dollars are spent, but direct marketing executives ought to make it their business to stand up and be counted at these types of industry events.

After all, I'd wager that direct marketers — masters of data and measurement — are well equipped to come up with effective means to bridge the chasm between integrating channels and measuring effectiveness.

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