Here’s a question for chief marketing officers. What part of customer engagement don’t you understand?

A new poll released by Korn Ferry International reveals that of 124 CMOs surveyed, the majority list creating sustainable and engaging customer relationships as a top concern, and yet the most popular marketing strategy for customer engagement is online advertising. Google ads, to be specific. In descending order after ads are Facebook, events, email alerts and Twitter.

Let’s get something clear. Online advertising is not the same as customer engagement. The most a customer can do to engage with a Google ad is to click. Same with Facebook Exchange ads. And yet, 85 percent of marketers say they allocate budget to digital advertising.

In the Korn Ferry poll, customer experience ranked third on the list of concerns. Yet there is no such thing as engagement without an excellent customer experience. It is all too easy to go elsewhere to find an authentic interaction if the experience isn’t working. You’ve got ten seconds to make or break that experience. Once customers have gotten past the shocker of a come-on, you need to deliver.

It’s a snapshot of an attitude in transition, because there are conflicting messages within these results. The vast majority, 89 percent, of marketing executives say that increasing social media usage boosts the importance of reputational management in marketing strategies. Most brands operate several social channels simultaneously, delivering regular content, and actively engaging in direct conversations with customers.

While marketing departments get the whole idea of customer engagement, at this point it’s still lip service. CMOs are afraid to abandon legacy practices, just in case. To be fair, brand exposure through display and banner ads is a good thing. Simply getting your name out there in front of customers, even if it does not result in clickthrough and conversion, can be of brand building value in the long run.

But ads are the easy way out. Set them, throw money at them, and forget them. Ads are not about great customer experience. They are not about building trust and engagement. Those traits rest squarely in the domain of content, whether that content shows up on social or on a company website. It will be interesting to see the results of the same poll a year or two hence. Will ad spending keep pace or will it flag?