More Marketers Turning To Search Specialty Shops, Majority Still Use Full-Service Media Agencies

Marketers are turning to specialist agencies for their online search marketing efforts, according to a new study issued Monday by the World Federation of Advertisers.

The Brussels-based trade group, which represents multinational companies that are responsible for about 90% of the world’s global marketing communications spending, reported that the number of advertisers working with a single international specialist search agency doubled to 23% last year compared to 2009, the last time the group queried members on the subject.

The survey found that 26% of respondents use a generalist digital shop for their search marketing activities, while 55% continue to use a full-service media agency for the work.

Mobile and social search efforts are still very much in the emerging media stage, according to the study, which found that two-thirds of the respondents do not yet have a budget for mobile search, while 44% reported not having social search budgets.  



Where those budgets exist, they are small. The average mobile search budget is about 1.3% of the total search marketing budget, while the comparable social search budget is 3%.

Performance-based compensation models for agencies in the search space are gaining traction, per 30% of respondents who said they paid agencies “output-based fees” -- up sharply from the 11% who reported doing so in 2009.

Another growing trend, the survey found, is that global marketers are centralizing their search efforts -- 68% indicated that plans were in the works in the next 12 months. A key factor in the drive to centralization: different units within the same organization bidding against one another for the same search terms. Also, marketers cite a lack of communication between their paid and natural search agencies, making the entire process less than optimal.

Commenting on the results, Stephan Loerke, WFA managing director, stated: “Paid search is a powerful platform for brands, and 84% of those surveyed plan to increase spend in this area. However, it could be even more effective for [marketers] if there was greater transparency and clarity among media owners and agency suppliers.”  

The survey polled representatives from 36 multinational marketers with combined annual global media spending of $33 billion, per the WFA.

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