"One area we're focused on is data. We haven't done the best job of letting you get access to that data," said Ron Belanger, senior director of channel strategy and development for Yahoo, at MediaPost's Search Insider Summit in Keystone, Colo.
Another Yahoo executive, Ben Wright, a director of channel strategy and development, seconded Belanger. "Part of what we need to do on the provider side to help our clients is bring research and marketing data over and above the traditional metrics that search has been held to--that's the way to get big brands. We need to do a better job of informing you guys what's going on so you can start planning earlier on in the budget cycle."
Karen Crow, director of sales and operations for Google, identified similar goals for that company: "A main theme for the future is going to be transparency, control and flexibility. There's been a constant movement towards showing advertisers where their ads have shown up. We're also trying to give them more control as to where the ads go, so it's not just a little 'black box.'"
Executives also discussed the complicated, still largely unknown relationship between search behavior and purchases at brick-and-mortar stores.
"Online behavior is driving offline purchases, and offline behavior is driving online purchases," said Google's Crow. She added that some new services, like "click-to-call," can help bridge the gap between online shopping and traditional purchases.
On the agency side, Matthew Greitzer, director of search marketing for Avenue A/Razorfish, agreed that more research is required to understand the interplay between online search and offline purchases: "Integrated data and integrated analysis is where it really gets interesting. A lot of interactive agencies are well-positioned to understand data integration from an online perspective--but that really only looks at that one channel. You have to look at search and how it interacts with your other channels--how it interacts with direct mail, for example--beyond just online direct response."
Aimee Reker, senior vice president and global director of search for McCann Worldgroup, provided perhaps the most sweeping view of the situation, describing structural developments that confirm agencies' need for more data: "[The growth of search] reminds me a lot of the late '90s, when we first thought about integrating online media into the media planning mix. It has moved the agency relationship deeper into strategic planning and business development."
As a result, she said, "the tools we use for planning have totally changed. We need to use our measurement tools to identify current consumer behaviors and opportunities, and then get a clean meaning from that information, and get this data to our clients."
Reker said this doesn't necessarily mean "inundating them with pages and pages of keyword performance data." Instead, she called for using analysis to formulate "contingency plans, to make sure they know that if we're not where we want to be next week, this is what we're going to do."Click here to view photos and listen to panel discussions from the Search Insider Summit.