Study Identifies Gaping Hole In Media-Buying Practices

Brands need to start pulling their search teams into the media-planning sessions if they want to have a fully integrated campaign that can produce the highest return on investment. The findings from a joint study made public Thursday identify a gaping hole in how media-buying teams communicate and the positive return on investment that search brings when all teams can sit in the same room to determine the strategy and media buy.

Companies have begun to break down the silos that contain data within specific media campaigns and now they must think about breaking down those same walls to rethink how they collaborate on buying media, said Rob Wilk, VP, North America search sales at Microsoft.

"Search budgeting should happen much earlier in the budgeting process when the rest of the planning gets done," he said.

Microsoft -- which powers nearly one-third of PC searches in the U.S. through its search engine Bing -- and Catalyst, a global digital marketing GroupM agency, commissioned a study from Forrester that analyzes today's search return on investment across all channels and how marketers can take a holistic approach to the media.

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The data shows that despite the ability of search to support other media channels such as television and display or social, it is often omitted from the media mix.

Forrester expects the global online population to grow from 3.4 billion users in 2016 to 4.2 billion in 2019, and eMarketer estimates that paid search will reach $34.9 billion in digital ad spend in 2017.

The study shows that 19% of consumers identified search as the most influential channel when researching their most recent purchase, compared with 7% who said the same for any form of offline media. 

Findings also show that marketers struggle with advancing their search programs. Wilks believes it is more of an organizational struggle, as more companies think about omnichannel campaigns. The study found that 52% of marketers cite cross-media attribution as one of their top three challenges in budget allocation, and 53% cite a lack of data to inform their strategies. 

Perhaps this is because media planners grew up with television and print advertisements, and not all realize that search aligns well with both. "Search lacks a prominent seat at the planning table, although it’s a primary source for consumers to find information," Wilk said.

Budgets are determined without someone on the brand's search team present, said Kerry Curran, senior partner and managing director of marketing integration at Catalyst/GroupM. "The search team needs to have a seat at the table early on when the media is being allocated, creative briefs put out, and the media team starts thinking about how they will connect with the target audience," she said.

Marketers often don't think about aligning search with TV media or display and video. Curran pointed to numerous Catalyst case studies where brands have seen an increase of impressions in other channels based on paid-search campaigns. "It's clearly evident in search spikes after a brand runs a Super Bowl ad," she said. "If you look at the search volume around branded terms of any of the companies running ads during the Super Bowl, you see search spikes in brand queries during the subsequent days."

Curran said the company also works with conquesting, where brands run ads or content online adjacent to editorial content related to the competitor or its products. Paid-search ads were run against competitor keywords within 15 second of the competitor's commercial airing on broadcast television.

"By getting search a more prominent seat at the planning table, we're able to better amplify other media buys," Curran said.

8 comments about "Study Identifies Gaping Hole In Media-Buying Practices".
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  1. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive, March 24, 2017 at 9:04 a.m.

    Is this a throw back article?  I will take some time to read the study - but are we joking with this: "it is often omitted from the media mix"????    Who omits Search from their media mix in this day and age...  Or maybe, just maybe, after I read the study - it might be more specific to Bing being ommitted from the initial planning :) 

  2. Laurie Sullivan from lauriesullivan, March 24, 2017 at 9:09 a.m.

    Michael, Not from the mix. The report says from the initial budget planning. And just because you don't omnit it, it doesn't mean everyone does. And, it doesn't mean everything ties search to television or other media such as video and display, though I'm pretty sure that display trend began about five or more years ago for most companies. The report is just trying to show how search amplifies other media, especially the media that runs offline.   

  3. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive replied, March 24, 2017 at 9:28 a.m.

    No - I get that Laurie...   But I'm still dumbfounded that there wouldn't be a budget for Search in the initial planning phase.  The only gray area I still find is how much more budget should be aligned with the launch of particular initiatives.  For example, like they state - if there's a Super Bowl ad, you can rest assured that your normal brand search volume will go through the roof - so it's difficult to allocate budget in that fashion - but the fact there's a study that says people aren't initially budgeting in their planning blows my mind.  This is not a new medium, and there's been correlation studies dating back to 2006.  So I'm struggling with the notion that this is not happening. 

  4. Virginia Suhr from Lobo & Petrocine, March 24, 2017 at 9:15 a.m.

    We have been aligning our search ads and terms with our ciients other digital and traditional media for years.  It provides better synergy.

  5. Laurie Sullivan from lauriesullivan replied, March 24, 2017 at 9:18 a.m.

    Awesome, Virginia, thank you for posting. Anyone else?

  6. Andrew Eklund from Ciceron, March 24, 2017 at 9:29 a.m.

    Can't speak for others, but personally, I've moved my agency well beyond planning into dynamic spending. Planning is one thing; being able to move client budget around as the data indicates one should from channel to channel is the diggity. We no longer look at a budget as a fixed "thing." It's simply a moment in time that can and should move as the consumer moves through his or her daily life from device to network to program or content type. You've got to be able to trade or shift spending on a dime as the data indicates. And, yes, having these teams all sitting together and sharing opportunities without budgetary fiefdoms is the only way I can see doing it successfully. 

  7. Michael Hubbard from Media Two Interactive replied, March 24, 2017 at 9:50 a.m.

    Agreed Andrew, that's how we've been doing it for years as well...   I think to Lauries point - this is the most difficult thing to factor in then.  If shops already aren't planning for search with initial budgets, then there's no way they can keep up with anything other than a set it and forget it mentality.  So something like what we do where the budgets are moving daily, that just wouldn't work with a company who needs fixed plans - and the reality is, as education levels in the industry have been improving, people are realizing that their marketing has to be as flexible as the medium.  So everyone will get there at some point.  But this article still astonishes me that while you and are are talking dynamic budgets, there are people that aren't even budgeting for it.

  8. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 24, 2017 at 10:20 a.m.

    It all depends on who and which function is involved. A pure branding campaign---such as is usually seen on TV and in magazines--- may be handled by a branding shop with demonstrated expertise in this area while search is handled by a specialist agency---or directly by the client---and is not part of the national branding effort---though one would expect it to be  complimentary  and so coordinated by brand management. It is unrealistic to expect advertisers and agencies to totally reorganize themselves and retrain most of their execs so every facet involved in their branding, targeting and promotional  activities are handled by the same people. That's just not going to work as the value, knowledge and career paths of the various functions do not lead in the same directions. What's really needed is far better coordination---which is often lacking---on the client side in order to take the fullest advantage of the skill sets of the various agencies and professional staffs.

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