Search In The Digital Media Ecosystem

I had the rare pleasure last week of spending one day learning from 150 people whose insights always explicitly or implicitly inform this column each week: my clients, colleagues, and partners. What follows are a number of takeaways from my company's summit, "Search in the Digital Media Ecosystem."

The insights included here are from a number of speakers and sessions, so if the originators will pardon me, I'll spare the attributions and offer a collective thanks to all who've shared both the ideas below and those omitted solely because the space allotted could not do justice to them.

1) As campaign budgets drop, the share that's digital rises. This idea was offered by a marketer from a movie studio, but it's hardly unique to that industry. For a major campaign, the online share keeps growing, but it's still often in the single digits. This creates opportunity when online marketing can take credit for much or all of the success with a given campaign, but it also means the Web can serve as a dumping ground for campaigns that don't have as much promise. Or, as another speaker countered, the Web can prove to be a way to efficiently expose a campaign to targeted audiences. He launched a TV show this year only through online advertising and public relations, and it did well enough that a second season's arriving soon.

2) TV beats the Web in research studies. According to the movie studio marketer, whenever a new movie is coming out, there are third-party tracking studies to gauge whether buzz is building for the film. When there's a TV ad blitz running, it shows up in the tracking studies. When there's an online ad blitz, it doesn't affect the studies at all. That's a major hindrance when lobbying to shift marketing dollars online. Despite the countless successful uses of search engine marketing for branding, one has to assume that text ads won't do anything to move the tracking needle. The tracking studies may not be the most important thing to measure in the long run, but if they're valued by marketers, that's all that matters. Understand their metrics first before trying to convince them why yours are so much better.

3) Use search to create demand, not just capture it. Tracking studies aside, search marketing is most commonly used as a way to capture demand that already exists. If someone searches for a product you sell, then you know there's some degree of interest already and you just need to be there. Yet if someone searches for a related term, you could try to spark interest and create demand. For instance, if you're trying to get Vegas visitors to visit your nightclub, you could bid on terms such as your club's name and "Vegas nightlife." Yet you could also build your brand by bidding on terms of celebrities who've been spotted at your club. It's not as targeted for the immediate conversions, but it does help establish the brand with credibility for celeb stalkers.

4) Bigger than Roddick vs. Federer: core vs. mass. One of the themes that arose was the struggle between reaching core versus mass audiences. On one hand, it's imperative for marketers to reach their core audience. When launching a new game system, for instance, Sony needs to reach hardcore gamers. On the other hand, the core audience may already be well-served, so how do you reach beyond them? How much value do you stress on capturing demand versus creating it? These questions are especially salient when planning digital marketing spending for campaigns where budgets are limited.

5) When it's time to launch a site, pre-launch it with a coming-soon page to give engines a chance to spider it. To really do it right, populate with assets and tip off bloggers and others that it's there. If blogs or other sites link to it, it will help build credibility for the site in search engines and give it a better shot at ranking for a few mission-critical terms.

Success has many parents, as my CEO Bryan Wiener mentioned during his remarks. For last week's event, the one parent who must be singled out is Vice President of Emerging Media & Client Strategy Sarah Hofstetter, who orchestrated it all.

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