Financial Category Holds Steady At Google
"We have not cut our marketing spend," said Nick Utton, CMO of eTrade, during a breakout session at Google's Press Day in New York, of his firm's estimated $150 million allocation this year. "We are reallocating and monitoring it closely. Our Internet spend keeps going up."
Jon Kaplan, industry director for financial services, said the category is one of the fastest-growing verticals at Google, which holds a 63% share of referrals to financial sites that start with a search.
While Kaplan conceded that Google is watching the current economic trends closely, the restriction in mortgage issuance by lenders such as Countrywide could actually result in more consumer searches because mortgages will be harder to find.
At the same time, banks are seeking more depositors to fund their loans, which may result in additional marketing spending to attract big deposits.
Kaplan added that he spoke this week with two financial services companies that cut their marketing budgets by 50%, but did not touch search. "This is an important lead generation channel. This will be the last channel they'll cut," he said.
Last week, TNS Media Intelligence reported that financial services are leading the pack of online display advertisers as well, and for the first time, the allocation made to online media (excluding search) exceeds all other measured media categories.
Year-over-year, Kaplan said, Google clicks in the financial category are up 66% and spending is up 90%. He threw out "representative averages" of a company in the top 10 advertisers, and said a typical mortgage advertiser spent $3.5 million in Q1 '07 compared to $1.9 million in Q1 '06.
Pointing out the diversity in the category, Kaplan noted that an average leading credit card advertiser's spend grew from $960,000 in Q1 06 to $2.62 million in Q1 07. Others in the subvertical include insurance, investment, banking and credit reporting companies--and all the categories are growing strongly, he said.
It's not all just search, Kaplan said, using the Turbo Tax "Tax Rap" campaign as proof that even a financial services advertiser can exploit Google's YouTube for brand-building purposes. The campaign--which invited consumers to create a tax rap to win $25,000--featured rapper Vanilla Ice, and generated 40 million ad impressions and 3 million video views, helped by three 24-hour YouTube home page takeovers.
TurboTax, he said, will repeat the campaign in 2008, making it even bigger.
Another expanding category on YouTube is short educational videos on financial topics, he said. Allstate, meanwhile, used Google Earth to promote its sports sponsorships by showcasing locations of the Allstate 400 and allowing users to zoom in on the tracks themselves. He said it's yet another example of the ability for advertisers to use Google tools to stay "always on."