We at Wunderman—years after having coined the term, and invented the practice of, direct marketing—have, as an agency, made a global commitment to a new dimension of advertising.

I call it an engagement between buyers and sellers. Let me define the term:

Engagement is having to involve one's self in something, as opposed to remaining aloof or independent of it.

Engagement is a promise that carries an obligation by all parties to do something. And not just to do something, but to continue to do it with each other. It can be in the form of an agreement, contract, or commitment.

Engagement is also a commitment to being activated or becoming operational in the present as opposed to some vague promise to do something in the future. Engagement lives in the now and is most likely to continue into the future if properly maintained and nourished.

Engagement in advertising can be enhanced or achieved by information and implemented by all of the contemporary interactive tools of communication. The engagement exists as latent information awaiting, if you will, the kiss of relevance, mutuality, or necessity to awaken it.

In our time, such information can be stored as a live capsule that can remain latent in a PDA or any other "companion" apparatus and germinate, change, and be brought to life when it is both relevant and timely.

Engagement creates the foundation for an ongoing interaction between advertisers and consumers as they experience the adventure of one or more exchanges of their mutual needs and means. The engagement deepens as the interactions increase in frequency and content.

Engagement uses as its base the capsule of consumer information that can germinate and create interaction over time (a good example is the way companies such as Amazon and Microsoft interact with their consumers.)

An engagement between a buyer and a seller begins with a single point of contact. It could be as a sale or an inquiry that, with the appropriate follow-up, can be converted into an ongoing experience for both the seller and the buyer.

It is such an experience or set of experiences that create what we define as an engagement—or at least the potential of creating one.

Once so engaged, sellers and buyers have made a kind of commitment of trust with each other. The commitment must then be sustained by ongoing communications and experiences of mutual benefit.

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Lester Wunderman coined the phrase "direct marketing" in 1967. His innovations have influenced the direct response industry ever since. He is chairman emeritus and founder of Wunderman.