Last week, Google and MySpace both announced major new advertising offerings that will be especially useful for small businesses. Though neither are search-related, both cater to search marketers in different ways.
First, MySpace came out with MyAds, its self-service display advertising platform. For a few days, it was the only major self-service display offering by a publisher (then Google ruined the fun). MySpace has about 30 templates to choose from, and almost all are designed for artists or bands to promote tours or album releases. MyAds works entirely on a cost-per-click basis, and I'd be surprised if many artists -- especially those without major record labels promoting them -- would know how much a click to their site is worth.
Ads don't need to be all about music though. Anyone can create an ad; I managed to do so, though it may be one of the ugliest ads ever created (its 0.04% click-through rate means you can get five people to click anything). Many marketers will have more success than me -- namely, marketers who know how much a click is worth and understand the messaging that works to drive clicks and conversions.
There are of course many differences between MyAds and Google AdWords. MyAds targets ads to 1,100 interests listed on profiles rather than billions of potential queries representing explicit needs. Creating great creative requires learning new skills for those who have only run hundred-character text ads. MySpace's audience differs from Google's. Yet MyAds, requiring only $25 per campaign, presents a way to run performance-based advertising -- pay only for the clicks you get -- on another top-ten publisher, so the risk/reward works out in advertisers' favor. Marketers who already have creative can run that, and such marketers will already have familiarity with display advertising.
Search advertisers will also appreciate using MyAds to gain more intelligence about MySpace users, and then potentially making inferences about others. You can find out, for example, that 1.1 million MySpace users nationally like the TV show "Heroes," 190,000 are fans of the game "Guitar Hero," and 640,000 like movies in the "Comic Books & Superheroes" genre.
Unlike Facebook's platform, MyAds doesn't update the numbers on the fly when layering in demographics. For instance, on Facebook, you can find 192,000 U.S. users interested in shoes. Of those, 36,000 are male and 154,000 are female. On MySpace, you know that there are 612,000 shoe fans, but narrowing it by gender doesn't update the total. What does update is the recommended minimum bid; for men in this case, it's 42 cents to 96 cents, while for women it's 38 cents to 88 cents.
Google's Display Ad Builder offers different value for marketers. The 28 templates available are almost entirely geared toward direct marketers. Ads are pre-designed for four industries: Entertainment & Media, Financial Services, Retail, and Travel. A few templates are better suited to branding, such as a photo gallery and slide show, but they're in the minority.
Here, search marketers will feel at home testing different headlines, copy, calls to action, and offers, even if, as with MyAds, there are many other new factors to consider. It's still the same AdWords platform, with the same bidding options across Google's content network.
All of this won't easily turn good or great search marketers into display marketing mavens. But it might be enough to entice large numbers of marketers who never attempted to run display ads. Some marketers will try it because it's easy to create direct response display ads on Google that run on their own campaign dashboards. Others will experiment with MySpace ads in what may be their first foray into social media advertising.
In either case, marketers experienced with search advertising will have certain advantages. If these marketers start achieving modest results with self-service display advertising, some will invest in it more heavily. That may not impact search marketing much, but it's very good for online advertising -- and the days of viewing search in a bubble are long past.