On the MiC: Leo Burnett’s David Moore on engagement, SMS, and Oleg the Cabbie

Engagement starts with the mind, not a half-Lithuanian, half-Green non-branded taxi driver, says Moore. Here's a sneak peek at what's on his mind for tomorrow's Hungry Dogs & Chocolate Wrappers seminar.

Last fall, Leo Burnett Canada presented the findings of its pilot research project on engagement at the second annual Media in Canada Forum. With a sample size of 320 people across Canada, the agency set out to get some truly Canuck answers to questions about the relationship between engagement in television programming and engagement in advertising, and how to measure emotional response (see Engagement not rocket science – Leo Burnett, CanWest MediaWorks, Ideas Research Group).

Today, Leo Burnett Canada president and CEO David Moore tells MiC the study will be expanded by the end of this year. ‘We’re hoping to take this study and expand both the sample size and geography – throughout North America, in media beyond television,’ he says. Tomorrow, at Hungry Dogs & Chocolate Wrappers, Moore joins two experts in cognitive science – Tor Wager, an assistant professor at Columbia University with research interests in brain bases of cognition-emotion interaction, and Michel Ferrari, associate professor, head of the centre for University of Toronto’s applied cognitive science – to present the research in a cerebral context at Science Meets Engagement, a four-part series presented by Leo Burnett, CanWest MediaWorks and strategy magazine. It all starts where engagement begins – the mind.

MiC: It’s a hot word. For those who think they know but don’t have a clue, and for those who don’t know but fall under its spell – what’s engagement?

Moore: The concept of engagement – the industry has been grappling with this for quite some time. It’s representative of the shift of control from marketers to the consumer, and the need to engage consumers with our messaging more than ever before. We used to have a captured audience, and the model was to interrupt and repeat. Now the rules have changed. There’s a lot of debate around the world on what this means for our industry, how do we move forward, and what are the new principles and parameters for successful brand building. Nobody has the answers. But there doesn’t seem to be that much debate happening in Canada. It’s happening in the US and it’s happening in the UK, and we want to get that discussion going here in Canada. There’s been a lot of work in the US in terms of researchers using MRIs to try and understand how the brain works and receives messaging. There’s a lot of people around the world who are delving into science to try and understand how consumers are being engaged.

MiC: When I ask for an example of good new-fashioned Canadian engagement, you – and many others – point to Dove’s ‘Evolution.’ What’s your take on why it worked?

Moore: There’s a value exchange, and people are getting more than just informational or brand messaging from Dove. They’re getting a sense of empowerment. That’s a successful recipe for engagement – when there’s a value exchange between the marketer and the receiver of information. It’s going to be more difficult to predict what will be successful. Nobody could have predicted the pass along of Dove ‘Evolution’ spot prior to, if you know what I mean. I think a lot of the truly engaging programs are going to continue to surprise.

MiC: So there’s a lot of trial and error in the industry when it comes to hitting the engagement mark?

Moore: Absolutely. And there should be more experimentation than there’s ever been before.

MiC: Is the level of experimentation on the Canadian scene keeping pace?

Moore: Not as aggressively as it is in other markets. What tends to happen in Canada is that budgets are a little slimmer and clients don’t have mad money to go out and test new things. I think there’s a little more resistance in the community here, simply because there’s more limited resources.

MiC: Dove aside – what about the other side of the coin? Can you point out any false leads or misfires from marketers aiming for engagement in Canada?

Moore: I would say there is a propensity to be romanced by new technology or new channels without understanding how or why those channels are being used. Sometimes we just run out and say, ‘Hey, I wanna do an SMS campaign,’ without starting with the consumer and understanding the engagement of the messaging.

MiC: South of the border, Fox made headlines this week for debuting content within commercial pods – treating 24 viewers to eight-second interstitials about Oleg the half-Greek, half-Lithuanian cabbie with no strings attached to any advertiser or program references. For marketers, are pod-busting tactics a good idea for keeping television audiences engaged?

Moore: To me, that’s sort of a sad testament on the ability of current messaging to engage consumers. Part of the research that we’re presenting says that we may be overstating the effectiveness of our television ads by the way we currently test them. We tested ads within new episodes of Global’s Top 10 programming and we then tested them in isolation, as ads are normally tested, and what we found is that the ads scored more poorly within someone’s favourite show, which says there might be a piss-off factor – the higher they are engaged with the programming, the more upset they are and the greater demands they have for the ads that are placed within it. I don’t think it should be up to the broadcaster to try and create devices to engage consumers and direct them to our messages. Quite frankly, the issue is the quality of the ads.