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.
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.