Searching For Meaning: Kantar's Swallen Explains Paid's Rapid Growth

Following Kantar Media's first ever estimates for paid search -- and some pretty healthy ones at that -- SMD asked Chief Research Officer Jon Swallen to drill down and explain exactly what the medium's 7% growth during the first quarter means, amid a media marketplace that is languishing overall. Among other things, Swallen points out that some of the comparisons are a function of the data that Kantar has access to, but at least for now, we know that the desktop search marketplace is still relatively healthy and vibrant. One would imagine that mobile paid search is even more so, even if the data isn't available to show it -- yet.

Search Marketing Daily: Why are you adding search now?

Jon Swallen: Our Search data is being provided by Adgooroo, a sister Kantar company since 2010. Their methodology had had some changes the past few years which precluded making fair year-over-year comparisons. But now the methodology has stabilized and we’re able to bring their data into the report.

SMD: How representative do you think this data is of search overall?

Swallen: The Adgooroo figures are based on desktop search from Google and Bing. The estimates do not include mobile search (Adgooroo is currently working on a methodology for that piece). According to the IAB/PWC Internet revenue survey for full-year 2014, the search revenue split is about 75% desktop / 25% mobile. That’s an indication of how complete our data are.

SMD: Why do you think paid search is the fastest-growing measured medium?

Swallen: Let’s qualify this. Desktop paid search is the fastest-growing of the media channels that are included in the Kantar Media report. As we point out, mobile is not part of our tracking. If it were, it would probably show the biggest growth rate. But yes, desktop search spend increased handsomely in Q1. Why? When consumers submit a query to a search engine, it’s a direct expression of their immediate interest and/or intent. They are more likely than a casual browser to be at the point of purchase, which makes them attractive to many types of advertisers. The ability to efficiently target consumers at scale at the point of purchase gives paid search an advantage over other media channels.

SMD: Were you surprised when you broke out search by the corresponding reduction in display?

Swallen:  I wasn’t that surprised that our Q1 figures showed a decline for desktop display because (a) our Q4 data also showed that display spend fell; and, (b) the 2014 year end IAB/PWC revenue analysis showed that desktop display declined in Q4. This pair of Q4 data points foreshadowed our Q1 results.

SMD: When you talk about the main factors driving display down, how much is programmatic -- especially RTB -- a factor in driving lower CPMs for display?

Swallen: Programmatic may be contributing to CPM declines, but I can’t test that hypothesis with our data. The pricing info we get is at a very aggregated level.

SMD: Lastly, don't you think it's ironic that one biddable medium (search) is rising, while another (RTB) is eroding (CPM) growth?

Swallen:  See my answer to question No. 3 – targeting at point of purchase.
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