I think most of us agree that search can no longer exist in a silo. To be truly effective, search must be woven throughout media planning and marketing communications because it is the single largest benefactor of all other media.
We see the studies and research points documenting TV and display's impact on search, the synergies between SEO and PPC, how social media benefits SEO efforts, etc. What we don't do well is execute this efficiently: Over-thinking, politics, and turf wars still plague us.
All of these areas require cooperation among developers, creative, media, search, IT, bid management systems, web analytics platforms, and CRM groups, yet there is still not enough integration. Particularly, there still is not enough integration among TV, outdoor, mobile media and SEM for my taste, as the upside here seems so obvious -- improved efficiency, increased frequency of exposure, and greater ROI, just to rattle off a few.
Search teams also could be more involved in the digital media process beyond core SEM strategy and tactics. The understanding of search behavior, targeting on a keyword level, dynamic pricing models, bidding, and balancing price/volume should be better leveraged throughout the agency to help plan and buy broader behavioral and contextual buys regardless of ad unit type. The skill set of buying against filters and daily testing and optimizations based on target, creative/offer, and price can provide improved ROI results with some specialized attention.
The next major opportunity is exchanges and ad marketplaces. These will begin to see critical mass in 2010 which means search teams need to broaden their focus for multiple reasons. As stated above, search teams have a unique skill set and experience that is very well suited to this type of buying. Plus search and affiliate have often been paired together, which makes me wonder about a broader opportunity here beyond search teams being asked to manage exchange buying.
The greater opportunity that I wonder about is that agencies and networks can now turn themselves into super affiliates. With access to dynamically priced inventory, greater transparency, new targeting filters, and an increased ability to move inventory do clients still need to run affiliate programs through the CJ's of the world? I don't think the affiliate networks will go anywhere any time soon, but you have wonder how much their business will take a hit over the coming years.
If an advertiser can remove the competitive nature of affiliate and agency buying by consolidating to one buying source that can optimize cross channel without taking a dip in volume and maybe even see an ROI lift it seems like something they would do. Then they can put all their affiliate network platform fees into media for greater scale.
The last thing I will address today is the need for better technology to help us improve operational efficiencies and campaign effectiveness. There is a wide range of new technology coming into the market ranging from bid management to search intelligence tools and even web analytics improvements. The onus is on the agencies to get out there and vet these new technologies.
It's time to invest into new and unique ways to integrate these systems and combine the data to provide quick and actionable insights to improve performance. There is a lot of overlap between tool functionality and usability, which means different tools need to be tested in different combinations based on agency structure/approach and client business objectives.
This is no easy task and can create a lot of chaos along the way, but it is unavoidable plus the pay off potential is huge because improved operational efficiency, greater transparency, enhanced insight into customer touch points and value will generate positive results for both the agency and their clients. What happens too often is budgets get allocated all to arbitrarily, reporting and insights take far to long to generate in order to be fully leveraged for optimizations, and campaigns are optimized on short sighted easy metrics to hang the hat of success on.
Another roadblock is also isolated technologies don't effectively talk to each other in order to provide maximum insight and/or adequate operational efficiencies. To address this, we need to be bold as an industry. This means truly integrating search into the broader digital and media discussions.
Integration is not just having the same name over the door, but working together from strategy and planning to cross channel optimizations while leveraging all possible data sources. Too often integration comes at the price of advanced specialization while technology handcuffs advertisers and agencies -- these do not need to be mutually exclusive and should not be holding us as an industry back.
There is opportunity here, but the impact will depend on how well we adapt to change.