Search And The Modern Media Plan
Search marketing is as good a measure as any to check which advertising categories are poised to embrace digital marketing – the more brands do search, the more likely they are to be thinking about how digital media changes the way they should be communicating with consumers. WPP, which recently laid claim to a search offering larger than any of its rivals, would probably say the same applies to how ready agencies are to respond.
At the end of last week WPP announced that its search capability, significantly boosted by last year’s acquisition of 24/7 Real Media, will be consolidated within GroupM, its specialist media arm housing agency brands such as MEC, MediaCom and MindShare. These agencies have now been charged with integrating search into the communications plans they devise on behalf of advertisers – plans that include both traditional and digital media. Given the way consumers are changing their media and buying behavior, and the ever-more central role search will play in guiding people through an increasingly non-linear digital environment, the reorganisation should help brands keep up.
The real work, however, remains to be done - getting advertisers to take search more seriously. First off the block from WPP is likely to be MediaCom Search so MediaCom can service Dell, a massive account where search will play a critical role. Dell, an exemplary case of how the internet can transform business, won't need any persuading of the benefits of placing search at the heart of marketing. For other brands however – that is, most other brands – the search leaders at GroupM’s agencies will find the going a little harder. Many companies tend to run search on ad hoc basis, with search programs just as likely to be run by sales teams, with whom media agencies have little contact, than the marketing department. Even when marketers operate their own search initiatives, they see little benefit in paying someone else to do something they feel they can do perfectly well themselves.
If anyone is getting a sense of deja vu, it’s probably because these obstacles are pretty much the same as those groups like WPP faced about ten years ago, arguing then that running a website should be the job of the marketer, not the IT department. Convincing companies to move search centre-stage in the marketing plan promises to be as just as tough. Once again, if agencies want to stay relevant, it’s a battle that needs to be fought.
After snapping up 24/7 Real Media for US$649 million last May, WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell described the firm as the foundation of a major new business activity for WPP, adding technology applications to the group’s current portfolio of creative and media services. All three areas 24/7 specializes in – search, ad delivery and online media – point the way for the future of marketing services. But once WPP, by no means alone in its endeavor, gets its clients on board with search, the rest should follow.
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