Google's Invitation To Change
Much has been written about Google's acquisition of Invite Media, but I have seen very little commentary about its potential impact on search marketers. Most of us have viewed this acquisition as yet another Google foray into media beyond paid search. Google has been making investments like this for some time, right? My opinion is that this acquisition will eventually have more impact on search marketers than any single event of the past several years.
First, some background is required. Invite Media is a DSP (demand-side platform) and defines itself as "the first universal buying platform for display media." Hyperbole aside, Invite is one of many DSPs that have popped up over the past several years focused on the relatively newfound ability to combine owned or purchased audience data with the purchase of ad inventory on an extremely granular and targeted basis. Add the capability of real-time Bidding (RTB) at the impression level with the combination of data sources like Bluekai , Demdex and eXelate, and this becomes quite powerful.
Originally, DSPs were touted as the ad network killer. Why should ad networks match users and inventory in a black box and keep all of the profit, when advertisers can do this themselves and remove the middleman? While DSPs have not killed off ad networks, the role of networks in the future will be diminished.
The bigger impact of DSPs has been their ability to change media buyers' focus from buying inventory to buying or retargeting individual users, subsequently finding the best place to advertise to these users. This is the fundamental shift in media buying that will profoundly impact paid search. The convergence of digital media channels to target individual potential customers across media channels they touch throughout their day, including search, is the future of digital marketing.
Search marketing plays a vital role in this new audience-driven ecosystem -- arguably the most important role -- but search marketing can no longer live in a silo in this new world. Additionally, this new audience-driven world further puts technology at the core of performance-driven digital marketing. As always, technology and strategic services will go hand-in-hand (not in competition) with each other. But the nature of strategic services will change.
The vast majority of paid search conversions occur on brand terms. What was the behavior and interaction with other forms of digital media that led users to type in the brand term on Google? How can search marketers interact with a user who searched and clicked on a very broad head term to interact with other forms of media, getting her to increase her purchase intent and more likely to type in that brand term?
Audience targeting specifically, and cross-channel media attribution in general, are not threats to paid search. Quite the opposite, savvy search marketers will find themselves in a more strategic role in determining the overall marketing mix, marketing message and potential inventory channels. Many aspects of managing auction-based display and real-time bidding play directly into the current skill set of today's search marketers.
There are significant concerns about Google having too much influence in the media-buying landscape. Also, Google owns DoubleClick's Ad Exchange, which competes with other auction-based platforms on Invite Media such as Yahoo's Right Media. Should Google have such a transparent view into performance data from competitive platforms, when their technology that makes purchasing decisions should be agnostic? These are questions for another day, but for now know that this acquisition greatly accelerates the need for a holistic cross-channel marketing strategy. I recommend that you embrace it.