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How Publishers and Advertisers are Winning with a Cost-Per-Engagement Model

In our last post, on Cost-Per-Engagement, we reviewed the benefits of Cost-Per-Engagement (CPE), a progressive ad model making headway in the digital media and advertising industries.

In this post, we want to further the conversation by demonstrating how CPE works in practice. Here are some examples of the CPE ad model in action.

Examples of the Cost-Per-Engagement Ad Model in Action
One publisher leading the charge on this front is The Economist, which rolled out its first time-based ad campaign in 2016.1 It billed clients for display ad impressions that garnered more than five seconds of “active” reader time – time when users were performing activities such as scrolling, typing or clicking.2

Helped by Nielsen, The Economist conducted a study that showed a 10.6-percent lift in brand awareness among users who saw these ads. The typical lift is about 2 percent, according to Nielsen.3

Other publishers have implemented similar strategies that emphasize engagement, namely focusing on time spent as a key metric to determine engaged users.

The Financial Times has explored a comparable model, based around an innovative “cost per hour,” or CPH, metric.4

Michael Feeley of The Drum explained the publisher’s motive:

“The development of the new CPH metric was informed by research which showed that brand awareness, uplift and association all increase the longer an ad is in view. However, under traditional CPM (cost per thousand) buys, all impressions are valued equally, e.g. an impression that lasts one second on a viewer’s screen is valued the same as an impression that lasts 30 seconds,” he wrote.5

“CPH is designed to attach value only to impressions lasting more than five seconds whilst the user is engaged with the page and, therefore, to deliver greater brand impact for each dollar of advertising spend.”6

The FT refers to it as “selling attention” instead of selling impressions. Entering its third calendar year using the model, global marketing director David Buttle has reported success.

“We have now sold 22 years of audience attention through CPH – with a large proportion of that being repeat business,” he said. “This campaign is about raising awareness of the benefits of the currency, so that ad spend can deliver better outcomes for all.”7

The Financial Times’ method bares resemblance to a model that Upworthy, a viral content publisher, implemented in 2014.8

Using “attention minutes,” the measure by which the publisher quantifies time spent, Upworthy values engagement higher than traditional clicks and pageviews.

“Clicks and pageviews, long the industry standards, are drastically ill-equipped for the job. Even the share isn’t a surefire measure that the user has spent any time engaging with the content itself,” the site wrote in an official blog post.9

“[W]e’d love to see customers begin to include engagement in how they think about fees. We already use the metric as a core measure for our editorial teams and it’s adding an amazing amount of context to more conventional quantitative metrics like clicks and shares,” he said.10

Cost-Per-Engagement Branded Possibilities
The CPE model can be applied to branded content, in addition to traditional ads.

According to Market Track, branded content is defined as “any form of advertising that uses “content” – typically articles, videos, infographics both on websites and social media – to support, represent or promote a product or service.”11

According to Polar, a company that provides publishers with solutions to accelerate branded content growth, the “currency” for branded content has evolved.12

“CPE is where we see the currency for branded content evolving to in 2018, as buyers will start to pay attention to not only how many content views they received but the quality of those content views,” the company wrote in a 2017 blog post. “Put simply, not all views are created equal.”13

Another nontraditional content medium that easily lends itself to engaging branding possibilities are data visualizations.

In 2017, The Associated Press implemented InHabit: a new, dynamic form of interactive data visualizations created by Arkadium.

Learn 3 reasons why interactive data visualizations may very well be the revolution digital publishers and advertisers have been hoping for.

The in-article embeds created engaging, topical content for users to manipulate, and resulted in significant metric jumps in key engagement areas: a 100-percent increase in session duration, 3.5 units completed per session and up to 35-percent click-through rates. Each unit carries its own branding opportunity, at scale, leveraging impressive engagement metrics to benefit publishers and advertisers.

As digital publishers and advertisers continue to combat various industry shifts while maintaining audience development, it’s clear that engagement will be, indeed, the key to success.

Content Personalization

1. Davies, Jessica. “The Economist Is Aiming to Run 20 Time-based Ad Campaigns by End of 2016.” Digiday. N.p., 04 Feb. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.
2. IBID.
3. IBID.
4. “Financial Times Calls for Wider Uptake of ‘attention-based’ Ad Metrics among Digital Marketers.” The Drum. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2018.
5. IBID.
6. IBID.
7. IBID.
8. Abbruzzese, Jason. “Time Spent Is the Metric of the Moment as Upworthy Opens Its ‘Attention Minutes’ Code.” Mashable. Mashable, 25 June 2014. Web. 07 Feb. 2018.
9. IBID.
10. IBID.
11. “What Is Branded Content?” Market Track. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2018.
12. “How The Currency For Branded Content Has Evolved.” Polar. N.p., 14 Nov. 2017. Web. 07 Feb. 2018.
13. IBID.