Innovation--Whose Role Is It Anyway?

In my last column, I discussed the features that make search marketing so powerful -- Proactive Consumption, Mass Customization, Instant Point-of-Need Direction, and Dynamic Performance-Based Pricing.

Then I pondered how we can incorporate these attributes into other advertising media. I believe it is the role of search providers and search firms to push the agenda here. We, search professionals, have the most experience with planning and executing ad campaigns in this environment, and we have the most to gain as these features are incorporated into a converging media world.

Already some of the top players are leading the way. However, to date, no one has emerged with a commitment to integrating all of the aforementioned features into all ad media.

Search Providers

It is incumbent upon search providers to create platforms that can make all media and all content searchable. And, if they can create advertising opportunities similar to today's PPC search platforms--doing so will certainly be a profitable endeavor.



Google has taken a leadership position here with initiatives such as Google Book Search and Google Video. It is also poised to deliver relevant, user-initiated, performance-based advertising in these areas--witness its recent collaboration with Viacom and its current test of pay-per-click video ads in AdSense.

MSN, with its acquisition of Massive, is primed to take features of search marketing to video games. And it has been rolling out adCenter as a platform by which advertising can be managed across all its properties.

Yahoo's recent partnership with Go2 promises to incorporate search ads into the mobile environment. And last year it announced an agreement with Boeing to bring search to airplanes.

However, to date, none of the Big 3 have made significant headway in the TV space. There's been speculation for some time that Google or Yahoo might buy Tivo. Imagine the possibilities there.

How about a partnership between MSN and Comcast? (MSN invested $1 billion in Comcast back in 1997.) Or deeper collaboration between Yahoo and SBC/AT&T?

Just last week, I began seeing banner ads at the bottom of my on-screen cable guide menu. One of them was a Comcast house ad directing me to search its listings. How long before those search results have ads alongside them? And how long before the banner ads are tailored to my previous searches and selections?

Search Firms

Search providers, alone, cannot generate the momentum needed to make all mediums searchable and, in turn, available for search advertising. Search firms have their fingers on the purse-strings of marketers who are--if their experience is anything like my firm' --incessantly clamoring for more inventory that meets the criteria I've outlined.

The extent to which we can direct our clients' budgets to the new opportunities created by the search providers will determine just how quickly this innovation will occur. Believe me, if marketing dollars follow each of Google's new ventures, it will continue to create more of them--not to mention, encourage others to follow suit.

Some search firms have already demonstrated that they recognize the coming shift in media delivery and are building capabilities and resources to capitalize when the time comes. I encourage all search companies to better merchandise those efforts so that we can really begin to move the needle here.

As I've pointed out repeatedly, the beauty of search is that it's a proactive medium. We, search professionals, need to be proactive in taking the functionality of search technology and attributes of search advertising to other mediums. Otherwise, it's only a matter of time before traditional media companies take that leadership role. And the last thing we need is a bunch of old-media squares trying to improvise their way into our new-media hole.

And now for the hoedown.

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