Commentary

How Search Fits Into Underdog As Jeff Hirsch Takes CEO Role

Jeff HirschRemember Jeff Hirsch? He left AudienceScience, a behavioral targeting platform company, last summer and this week surfaced as CEO of Underdog Media, a 12-person shop in Santa Barbara, Calif. The tagline "performance unleashed" underscores the company's focus to support branding and direct-response efforts in an ad network model, complete with optimization, search retargeting, and dynamic creative tools.

At Underdog it's done partly through retargeting. Investments in search remain critical. When companies invest in paid-search ads that bring consumers to a landing page on a Web site, but leave without performing an action, such as buying something, retargeting becomes an important tool to bring them back to the purchase.

It's done not only by getting consumers to convert from a looker to a buyer, but how the brand's Web site treats the person once they get there. A typical purchase funnel looks more like a "purchase hourglass." From the top of the funnel, marketers move consumers through Awareness, Consideration and Action, followed by Re-action, by retargeting -- where cross-selling and selling higher-priced items can happen.

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"I make fun of myself in that I can smell money," Hirsch said. "This means I can look at a company's technology and market position, and spot the opportunity. Then I figure out how to leverage it and grow the team to support it."

Hirsch did it at AudienceScience by creating the market for data-driven online advertising. Now he wants to try it at Underdog, he said -- comparing the two as an "ocean liner" and a "speedboat," respectively.

Processes have become as important as the technology. Attribution has become an important part of online marketing, helping to determine where media buyers should allocate budgets to make the most of marketing dollars. Underdog supports solutions at each phase of the funnel through the use of display advertising, dynamic creative pieces, and remarketing technology.

Many search marketing partnerships have surfaced in the past month, from Omnicom to Kenshoo to Covario to Marin. I've explained most, comparing the integration of a variety of platforms with the integration of enterprise resource platforms (ERP), such as order management systems, with inventory replenishment.

When Hirsch said Underdog had to become somewhat of a "system integrator," a phrase typically used by software developers for IT companies and in IT departments of brands, it automatically brought me back to the subject of demand-side platforms and integrating several platforms. "How do you make things work when so many inefficiencies exist?" he said. "I don't see it changing any time soon. Google has been trying to make it work, but it will take a long time."

Most companies, such as Underdog, want to make it work for clients because of the low barrier of entry into the online advertising space.

While digital-buying automation solves a piece of the puzzle, consumers inherently react differently to ads, environments, and messaging. Underdog Media, founded in 2007 by former ValueClick Media exec Shayne Mihalka, combines technology, creativity and distribution to drive performance via real-time marketing, according to the company's Web site.

CrunchBase describes Underdog Media as a company delivering both "direct response and branding initiatives for marketers utilizing staff expertise, smart ad call, and real-time technology to produce top results for advertisers and publishers."

 

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