Given the convergence and emerging digitization of traditional mediums like TV, radio, and print, I think we need to clarify the definition of "online" advertising--not only for the sake of having accurate projections, but for us marketing professionals to truly benchmark our efforts and innovate. This will also help us assess how search will fit into--or, in my opinion, break out and direct--the rest of the media mix.
So, first and foremost, when it comes to online advertising, are we talking about ads that appear on a Web site? Or ads that are displayed via Internet connection?
There was a time where the only ads delivered via Internet were those that appeared on actual Web sites and were viewed on a computer. Clearly, that is not the case any more. You can now watch TV on your computer. You can stream radio on Web sites. You can read print publication your cell/PDA or via digital tablets. And you can see dynamic messaging on the street, in bathrooms, and on elevators. And ads within each of these mediums can be delivered through the Internet.
With this in mind, perhaps we ought to consider a pie that measures the percentage of ads delivered online vs. offline. Surely, in this case, online's share will be higher than 9 percent in 2011.
Next, let's project the breakdown between actual points of content consumption and ad exposure. This would refer to the device itself and measure the percentage of all ads displayed on computer, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, digital tablet, cell/PDA, roadside screen, elevator screen, bathroom screen, etc.
Now, let's consider the targeting features that the digitization of media will enable. Certainly demographic, geographic, and content targeting will still exist. TV advertisers will always be able to choose certain networks. Just as Web, er , computer advertisers will be able to buy certain content Web sites. And both will be able to geo-target certain DMA's, even down to zip codes, via IP addresses. But how about behavioral targeting? Or keyword-contextual and user-initiated keyword query targeting (aka search)? What percentage of all advertising will incorporate each of these elements?
John Battelle, in his epic book The Search, conjures up a scenario in which a consumer searches "pregnancy baby" on Google, TiVos a show about childbirth on the Learning Channel, and buys the book What to Expect When You're Expecting, from Amazon.com. Sure enough, when that consumer tunes into the Learning Channel, he is discreetly delivered a Pampers ad on the bottom of his TV screen.
If the success of Internet search marketing is any indication, advertising that works best is relevant and non-interruptive. To that end, it might be helpful to break out a pie showing the percent of ads that appear over or in-between content vs. those that are displayed unobtrusively alongside it. Thirty-second video/audio spots, full-page print ads, stand-alone e-mail and Web site homepage takeovers would be categorized as the former. Meanwhile, the latter would consist of placements like in-page print ads, Web banners, keyword text listings, e-mail newsletter ads, peripheral elevator ads, etc. Another category here would be stand-alone ads like solo e-mails, outdoor billboards and bathroom ads.
It will be interesting to see the changes over time along these lines in terms of consumer tolerance and, in turn, advertising performance. My hunch is that non-interruptive ads will see their share grow considerably between now and 2011. And leading that charge will be the relevancy that search functionality can provide.
Once all mediums become digital and Wi-Fi penetration allows for "always-on" consumption, the consumer will truly be in control. And, as content-owners adapt to this environment per Chris Anderson's Long Tail theory, more and more content will be available on demand. It follows, then, that search will be the glue that binds it all together.
Gone will be the days of consumers watching/listening to whatever content happens to be on the channel, station, or Web site they surfed to and the accompanying ads. Instead, they'll be searching for specific topics, resources, people, information, and products on whatever device they happen to have in front of them at the time.
It is at this moment--the point of query--that advertisers have the best chance to connect their brand assets (whether it be a commercial, a video with strong product placement, a coupon, or simply a tagline) with the consumer.
If, however, the consumer is not ready for a commercial message at that time or does not deem the specific brand relevant to their search, then behavioral targeting or search retargeting can kick in, based on the initial query. Whether that process is as intricate as Battelle's scenario or a simple text message delivered immediately to that user via cell, e-mail, or TiVo, the audience targeting here is based on the query (and any subsequent queries) not just the profile of the consumer.
This is how I view the role of search within the media mix in 2011--shifting from fitting in as a subset of "online" advertising to breaking out and directing the process of content consumption and advertising delivery. In this role, the query becomes a key targeting feature and the point of query becomes the coveted ad location. Further, non-interruptive advertising display in this environment becomes crucial for consumer tolerance and adoption and, in turn, marketer ROI.
So now the question becomes--given this view of the 2011 media world, how can search providers and search marketing firms prepare?
To answer that, we'll need to further examine why search marketing works so well today. Stay tuned for my next column when I delve into this topic but, suffice it to say, there's no one-size-fits-all answer.