SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—Consumer reported engagement rates across different advertising media show that “the digital channels are kind of in the toilet,” says Forrester’s Joanna O’Connell. Changing that will be a bit more complicated than just figuring out what constitutes premium ad environments, where engagement tends to be higher. The VP and Principal Analyst says in this interview at Beet Retreat 2018.

O’Connell’s observations are based on research Forrester has done plus findings from other sources. Combined they indicate that “you just generally find the reported engagement rates for the digital channels are just generally much lower,” she says.

It doesn’t matter whether a respondent is 55 or younger and more progressive, where engagement is nonetheless “pretty low.”

Asked whether this knowledge flies in the face of big shifts in marketers’ ad budgets to the digital realm, O’Connell says there’s nothing wrong with being where one’s consumers are.

“The question is, what are we doing with those opportunities when we have them with these people? What do you make of that moment you have to grab their attention?”

She cites shortcomings like “frequency run amuck” and hyper personalization of ads without fully understanding how consumers are actually perceiving such personalization. “We just have a lot of problems.”

Some of the research Forrester found shows that in general, “you will find that in premium environments response rates are in fact better. So there is value in being associated with these high quality publishers.”

What constitutes “premium”? This is where much of the complexity arises, because brands like Huggies might want to advertise in content that Vice would shun to promote “an edgy content series. It doesn’t fundamentally mean that one is bad content and another is good, or one is high quality and another is low quality. It means understanding what’s appropriate in that moment,” says O’Connell.

So for the time being, consumers will continue to lead a revolution while the advertising industry attempts to manage an evolution involving varying infrastructure, organizational design and “lots of business rules that is hard to flip upside down.” She will be conducting more research to examine success stories in the “practical realities” of omni-channel advertising along with her colleague, Jim Nail.

“I hope we find great examples of that happening, because I want us to be able to say ‘here’s a model for how it can work.’ I don’t know yet what I’m going to find.”

This video was produced in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the Beet.TV executive retreat. Please find more videos from the series on this page. The Beet Retreat was presented by NCC along with Amobee, Dish Media, Oath and Google.