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Search Site Profile: Lycos


Last Saturday night, at the behest of my Yellow Rose companion, I attended one of those high-priced Hollywood fundraisers for (insert charity name here) to benefit the Arts. Of course, I approached this one like I would any event of this type— with jaded skepticism. However, as I sat next to my childhood filmmaking hero, Mr. Steven Spielberg, (along with a room full of A-list celebs) and heard the tremendous efforts put forth, I realized I had at least one thing in common with these altruists—I always root for the underdog.

This week, I begin a monthly series profiling search-marketing providers that stand out from the crowd. Not because they have a phalanx of public relations experts or the mainstream press machine has brought them to center stage, but instead because they work hard at having something viable to offer advertisers. While tossing in my experience and perspective, I’ll be clearing up the confusion and cutting through the search hype because, doggonnit, someone has to!

Speaking of all things canine, Lycos’ top dogs Tom Judd, Lori Kuhn, Adam Soroca, and Tom Wilde recently opened the preverbal kimono so that I could bring you the latest in happenings and advertising options from this search site plus a whole lot more.

More Bark, More Bite

Lycos, the loyal search Labrador we all came to know and love, is now owned by the Barcelona-based parent, Terra Lycos. A search destination that provides paid search in the form of inclusion and placement, what really makes Lycos interesting is the menagerie of online marketing options it brings to the table. This is a time when bigger search destinations like Yahoo! have decided to focus on refining themselves as search utilities. MSN is doing away with banners in favor of text ads, and both Looksmart and Ask Jeeves have closed the door on the banner as well.

Though last October’s Solomon Smith Barney report The Search Market barely referenced Lycos, the dog was credited with being one of the search pioneers from the mid-nineties. Today, representatives do not refer to Lycos as just a search site. “It’s a network of autonomously run sites-- independently managed entities that receive ads in very specific context,” reports Lori Kuhn, western regional sales manager. According to Lycos Direct Manager Tom Judd, “Lycos is a house of brands not a branded house.” These are more than adequate ways to describe the universe of Terra Lycos which delivers such powerhouse Web brands as Wired News, the newly redesigned search engine, HotBot and do-it-yourself site-building communities Angelfire and Tripod.

Digging Up The Bones

comScore data from June, 2003 confirms the power of the Lycos network as compared to search alone. The share of total searches for that month amounted to less than 1% of all searches at just 5.5 million unique visitors. However, when you add in the rest of the network, the picture becomes a bit clearer with over 53 million unique visitors to the total network.

The U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray report, Golden Search, used Nielson//NetRatings data for 2002 to depict an abysmal drop off in search user activity for that year. The top four search sites, Google (34%), Yahoo (21%), MSN search (18%), and AOL search (11%) represented the biggest chunk of search destination market share. Narrowly missing the sad “other” designation were smaller search providers like Lycos (3%), Ask Jeeves (3%) and Alta Vista at (2%).

Golden Search reported Lycos had some relatively strong brands but believed that Lycos needed to develop a single portal strategy. According to The Golden Search report, Lycos outsources its Algorithmic Search, Paid Listings and Paid Inclusion offerings. That’s not exactly the case.

Lost: The Search Facts. Answers to, “Here Boy”

Not to be too hard on the Golden Search people, Lycos does receive paid listing data (and revenue) via Overture. However, Lycos is doing search on its own with InSite, which consists of both a paid-inclusion and paid-placement vehicle.

According to Adam Soroca, group products manager, Lycos InSite, “The InSite Ad Buyer provides a single destination to place and manage paid-search programs. We intended to provide a place for newcomers to demystify search marketing and a key paid-search destination for existing advertisers in the space.”

One could argue that all paid search began with, and is still dominated by, small business and the InSite Search Engine Submission service is designed to provide small to medium enterprises an affordable paid-inclusion tool. A nice change in the age of skyrocketing click costs, which may preclude a small business advertiser from even entering the space.

While the InSite Ad Buyer provides access to the Terra Lycos network via paid search listings, I have to register a complaint. Lycos does not allow third-party bid managers like GoToast or BidRank as other search sites Sprinks and Kanoodle do. Although Lycos plans to release its own campaign management tool in the fourth quarter of this year, I’d still like the option of plugging them into my third-party, campaign-management interface.

My suggestion for Lycos’ search moving forward would be to further capitalize on the speed to market quotient for refining and monetizing search. Due to its smaller size, Lycos can move as the preverbal speedboat as opposed to the larger search aircraft carriers out there. “One search technology supplies all of the sites, allowing Lycos to target specific verticals within search,” reports Tom Wilde, global general manager, Search Services. “For example, Lycos anticipates being able to target a teenager searching for wireless phones and SMS thereby using research to translate user behavior.”

The possibility of serving targeted and individual messaging elements to searchers using the same phrase based on demographic or psychographic designations has me biting at the bit. A male teen group would see a different messaging element than a female teen group and could be directed to separate landing pages for the same wireless device.

Best of Show

Trying to encapsulate the rest of Terra Lycos’ offerings may read like a New York minute delivered at warp speed. Although it may take more than sixty seconds to peruse online, here it goes.

To hell with the 468 ad unit. Go big or go home I always say and Lycos is heavy into rich media and site continuity making rich content both a buzzword and a way of life. Whereas the trend for search has been rediscovering the more utilitarian qualities, Lycos has gone one hundred eighty degrees from an exclusively text-focused environment by delivering graphic intense rich media in much needed categories like entertainment.

If reaching site-building entrepreneurs and teens is your thing Tripod and Angelfire are ranked in the top sites on the Web for those audiences. Last week, Angelfire was ranked the number one teen and tween destination online above Teen People and AOL Teens, according to comScore’s August 2003 Community Teens report. The Tripod/Angelfire Blog Builder received the PC Magazine editor’s choice distinction in September 2003 beating Google-owned Blogger.

Also notable, WiredNews and HotBot Search attract very specific verticals. Lycos acquired email provider GetRelevant to revamp Direct Marketing efforts. Within the direct marketing offering is an email co-registration option with over forty sites like Investors Business Daily.

As a general rule, I am not a big fan of the online dating sales pitch. However, if you desire to reach would-be romantics thereby perpetuating the commoditization of romance in an environment that is decidedly eschewed to the female dating agenda, the Lycos property matchmaker.com may be your site. Alternatively, the special interest dating site, alt.matchmaker.com is worth a visit for entertainment purposes, though ads are not served into this site.

This Dog Can Hunt

In just under two years, Lycos has gone from a focus-on-banner revenue to multi-tiered content, search listings, and rich media. In the same time period, search listings have gone from being a commodity to paid listings paying everyone’s bills. Lycos has gone from being a blip, or “other” search site in search industry financial reports last year to becoming a bone-a-fied entity in this year’s. In the end analysis, we can continue to expect great things from Lycos.

As another challenging online marketing week begins, I find myself in a position to thank the deity for three unique, extraordinary gifts; search sites that transcend boundaries presented by popular conjecture, altruistic celebrities, and tall, blue-eyed Yellow Roses from Texas.

If you’re an advertiser or agency and know a search provider that works harder and delivers, drop me a line.

About the author: iMedia search columnist Kevin Ryan’s current and former client roster reads like a “who’s who” in big brands; Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services, and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. He is currently Director Market Development of IPG’s Wahlstrom Interactive where he provides guidance in directional online marketing to Wahlstrom’s prestigious list of clients and sister agency brands.

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Moskowitz: How have you zeroed in on user-generated content as a profiling vehicle? Are you watching what a person produces and targeting them on that basis? Or are you watching what UGC a person views and targeting them on that basis?

Frankovitz: In a word, both. We examine what bookmarks a person has saved for themselves, as well as any bookmarks they've viewed that were found by other people. This is one of the fun things about online bookmarks that people love to do: discover and explore great links other people have found. And it tells us a great deal about that person's interests. So imagine a person who has saved three mortgage-related bookmarks for themselves, and has also looked at another user's online bookmarks about refinancing. We might conclude that this person has an interest in both buying a house and refinancing their current home, but the refi interest may be a bit more short-term or casual. This is just a simple example. There are several factors we use to determine the degree of interest, so there's no one rule that applies to all situations. Seethroo's detailed analysis translates both the contents of a person's bookmarks, and the activity associated with those bookmarks, into solid targeting information.

Moskowitz: How are you categorizing the varieties of this kind of UGC?

Frankovitz: The way we categorize all this information has a lot to do with each ad network we're partnering with: we find out what kinds of ads they're carrying and what campaigns can benefit the most from our enhanced targeting. Actually, we're limited only by their inventory. So, for example, if we're tracking bookmarks related to IBM laptops, we can display a highly targeted, vendor-specific, competitive-upgrade style of ad (for example: "trade in your old Thinkpad and get $500 off the latest HP system"). But if that kind of specialized ad isn't available from our ad network partner, we can fetch a generalized technology-related banner ad (for example: a buy.com ad saying "we're the place for the most popular cool gear").

Some bookmark communities are general interest and store links for every topic under the sun, while other sites are more tightly organized around movies, videogames, or what have you. We work with both non-vertical and vertical bookmark sites to ensure that, whenever possible, an ad is being displayed to each person that matches their individualized interest profile.

Moskowitz: What does tracking UGC give you compared with other behavioral parameters you could track to profile an individual on the internet?

Frankovitz: The nature of bookmarks offers benefits not found in other, more conventional kinds of data. Bookmarks are inherently personal, so they tell a different kind of story than clickstream analysis, time spent on a site, and so forth. A person may surf to 20 websites in a day and generate 100 different pageviews, but of all that activity there's perhaps only one or two links they'll want to bookmark. We care more about those links because that's exactly what each person is telling us: "I care more about these links I've bookmarked." Most technology up to this point has been focused on getting an ad to match the page it's sitting on, or the site's overall content as a whole.

Moskowitz: Or an overall behavioral profile?

Frankovitz: Yes, that too. Our bookmark analysis lets us target ads that match a person, not just a page.

Pretend that your job is to figure out what foods a restaurant should buy. The best way to do that is to find out what the patrons are actually eating, not what they're thinking about ordering. To continue the metaphor, the common practice today is like having consumers open up a menu and see an ad next to every food item. That is a less-efficient "spray-and-pray" approach, and it wastes a lot of marketing dollars on people who aren't really in your audience. Seethroo lets ad spending be more focused and effective, and the benefits include greater value for the advertiser and enhanced revenue for ad networks and publishers.

Moskowitz: When will we see this technology launched?

Frankovitz: We have a few demos and customer trials in the works as I write this, so most likely before summer 2007.

Robert Moskowitz is a consultant and author who speaks and writes frequently in the United States and abroad on such topics as white collar productivity, knowledge management, practical use of the internet, telecommuting, caring for aging parents and business applications of information technologies. Read full bio. 

Brand Name: Konami, American Idol
Agency/Campaign Creator: eROI & ANG
URL: www.musicineverydirection.com/americanidol

What is unusual and effective about the video campaign?
Have you always dreamed of being a rock star? Now is your chance. Game publisher Konami has partnered with American Idol to create a game called “Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol.” Together with online marketing agency ANG and web developer eROI, Konami launched an online community with video upload, rating and commenting at the core of MusicInEveryDirection.com. The original videos were actually captured offline in contests at U.S. malls across the nation. When the site went live, consumers were invited in to add their own, create profiles, add friends and vote on one another's performances. This brand new community site allows web users to upload videos of them belting out sweet melodies alongside the "Karaoke" game. Other online community members can rate the videos, give overly candid feedback via a comment board and ultimately win.

What sort of technology was used?
iFilm was selected as the video media partner to increase the reach of the user-generated media.

Did it live on the brand’s site, was it distributed through an online video network, viral or was there some other model?
This campaign micro-site has its own unique design and branding; however, it keeps a consistent brand in the game itself and is linked from Konami’s main site. Guerrilla PR is the online public relations specialist agency that was brought in to implement the grassroots strategies behind the video distribution.

Was there any user-generated component to this campaign? Did you empower viewers to comment, favorite,  download, mashup or do anything to the video?
User-generated video is what makes this community site so much more enticing than a static video site. We empower online viewers to search for videos or online community members, then rate, comment and ultimately mashup their own videos.

How does the video campaign fit into and complement the overall brand strategy for the company?
As you can imagine from a video game company, Konami’s target audience craves edgy design, flash and now video. However, each game has a different audience, and the audience for "Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol" wants fame, celebrity, drama and fun. The Music in Every Direction site clearly hits the mark from a brand perspective.

How would you improve the video campaign?
There needs to be more videos of people with embarrassing voices and eccentric stage presence. When I find a video of an awful performance and see the comments and ratings surrounding it, I find such comedic pleasure in that experience. Admit it, you do, too.

Brand Name: P&G TAG Body Spray
Agency/Campaign Creator: Unknown
URL: www.tagbodyspray.com 

What is unusual and effective about the video campaign?
I have to admit that I fought the “retro” urge to review Phillips’ Shave Everywhere and Proctor & Gamble’s Men With Cramps campaigns. Both of those video sites still bring tears to my eyes from laughing so hard each time I visit them. More importantly, they have continued to evolve and add content even though these sites are 6 months old. Proctor & Gamble launched a new site for its risky teen brand TAG Body Spray. True to form, the site pushes the envelope as far as revving up the hormone levels of teenage boys (and girls) all over the world. What still blows me away is that the company behind this campaign (and MenWithCramps.com) is Proctor & Gamble, one of the most cautious marketers in history. Thankfully, they have recently started to produce more entertaining sites and clearly TagBodySpray.com delivers entertainment and co-collaboration with consumers on this site. Web users are asked to upload their own video for the chance to win “the ultimate all-nighter with Maxim Hometown Hotties.” The six featured videos have engaging roll-over states to entice greater viewership of those videos. While I find the “sex sells” theme of the site too predictable, I think the teenage target audience clearly resonates with the site’s premise.

What sort of technology was used?
The site uses a custom-branded version of the technology called KickApps, which focuses on enabling user-generated video and social networking tools for viral video sites.

Did it live on the brand’s site, was it distributed through an online video network, viral or was there some other model?
This is a campaign micro-site that is separate from the primary TAG site. I am not sure of the video distribution strategy. I heard about it through KickApps' own website as well as from browsing on viral video sites on Adverblog.

Was there any user-generated component to this campaign? Did they empower viewers to comment, favorite, download, mashup or do anything to the video?
Yes, the user-generated toolset on this site is the true power behind the site. Users are actively commenting and rating videos. I especially like the “Recommended” videos on the site where you can sort by Latest, Top Rated or Most Viewed. Similar to YouTube, the KickApps video application allows you to copy and paste the embedded form element on your blog or website to further promote your user-generated video in hopes of winning the grand prize.

How does the video campaign fit into and complement the overall brand strategy for the company?
TAG’s brand has a simple premise: “sleep less, score more.” It clearly targets teenage boys and has a voice that fits that group well. This campaign site hits the mark for the horny teenage mindset.

How would you improve the video campaign?
There needs to be a “clever” factor to user-generated videos that is heavily weighted towards winning the main prize for the video you upload. Again, I’m not the target audience, but the subtle “Tips to win” link on the homepage could be a bit more prominent and encourage more creativity rather than simplistic plot lines. As a brand, there needs to be something slightly more inspirational to aspire to, other than soft porn for teenagers.

Brand Name: Alltel Wireless
Agency/Campaign Creator: Martin Agency, Tremor Media
URL: http://cdn.dynadco.com/Alltel/Alltel.htm

What is unusual and effective about the video campaign?
What was most unusual about this campaign was the duration of the ad. It is only 5-seconds long, which is a significant departure from the usual 15-second and 30-second pre-roll spots that we see. Alltel’s goal was to raise brand awareness, and a short, branded pre-roll message is a great format for raising awareness without interfering with the content that the user is really requesting.

What sort of technology was used?
Tremor’s Ad-inStream enables our advertisers to continue to use their preferred ad servers, which allows for a no-hassle integration with their current reporting. The video itself is streaming Flash video.

Did it live on the brand’s site, was it distributed through an online video network, viral or was there some other model?
The campaign was distributed across the Tremor Media network. In addition to running in front of a publisher’s content, the short duration of the Alltel ad made it ideal to put in front of other short form content that isn’t normally seen as viable pre-roll inventory.

Was there any user-generated component to this campaign? Did you empower viewers to comment, favorite, download, mashup or do anything to the video?
This is a fairly straightforward pre-roll execution. However, the duration of the ad should be seen as a “best-practice” for monetizing short-form content. Five seconds is enough to get your brand message across, but it doesn’t diminish the overall user experience when watching short clips either.

How does the video campaign fit into and complement the overall brand strategy for the company?
The campaign objective was to reach people who use their cellphones as their primary phone and use the web to communicate with friends and family. They also wanted to reach families that currently share a mobile plan, as well as travelers. With the variety of publishers on our network, we were able to easily target and reach all of those demographics effectively.

How would you improve the video campaign?
We’d like to have run a brand test measuring the impact that different lengths of creatives have on brand favorability and purchase intent, and then use that data to optimize the campaign.

Brand Name: The History Channel’s “American Eats”
Agency/Campaign Creator: Glow Interactive, Horizon
URL: http://media.glowinteractive.com/thc/ae/

What is unusual and effective about the video campaign?
This is a great example of interactive video. When the banner loads, the guy standing there holding a “Rollover to Feed Me” sign begs for interaction from the user. When the banner expands, the user has a choice of foods to drag into the main window. The video seamlessly switches to a new video, with the appropriate food item being handed to the guy, who then explains the history of that food, just like the show.

What sort of technology was used?
Flash and Flash Video

Did it live on the brand’s site, was it distributed through an online video network, viral or was there some other model?
As it wasn’t one of our campaigns, we don’t know the actual media plan.

Was there any user-generated component to this campaign? Did they empower viewers to comment, favorite, download, mashup or do anything to the video?
No mashups or tagging required.

How does the video campaign fit into and complement the overall brand strategy for the company?
This ad unit does an excellent job of delivering all the branding a show would need. It has the time and day of airing, prominently placed logos for the show and channel, and it offers enough content for the user to get a true feel for the show and whether or not they’d want to tune in.

How would you improve the video campaign?
This ad could use a “Tell a Friend” viral component. I would definitely forward this if I thought they’d enjoy the show, or simply because it’s a great ad that is fun to interact with.

Brand Name: The Arizona Office of Tourism
Agency/Campaign Creator: Moses Anshell and The Fifth Network
URLs: National Creative - http://www.thefifthnetwork.com/campaigns/aot2007/aot2007_national_300x250.html

Regional Creative - http://www.thefifthnetwork.com/campaigns/aot2007/aot2007_regional_728x90.html

What is unusual and effective about the video campaign?
The 2007 Arizona Office of Tourism campaign was steeped heavily in research conducted by the client about the various target audiences, their behaviors, interests and specific geographies. Using that research, this campaign targeted long-haul, short-haul and regional travelers with different creatives and eight unique interest videos that appealed to the groups' varied interests. The different creatives were then selectively targeted to 17 states on national, local and niche-interest websites. This campaign combined the emotive power of video with hard numbers and targeting technology in order to reach the right people with the right message.

What sort of technology was used?
The video creative included large-format expandable video and rotating videos. Additionally, the regional creative included multiple tabs that featured videos specific to activities visitors could expect to partake in different regions of Arizona. The units also featured a customizable send-to-a-friend e-postcard and newsletter sign-up.

The media portion of the campaign employed placement-specific targeting across national, local and smaller niche-interest websites with geo-targeting, contextual targeting and behavioral targeting technology to identify and reach the right audiences.

Did it live on the brand’s site, was it distributed through an online video network, viral or was there some other model?
The online campaign was planned by The Fifth Network and ran across more than 50 websites. The bulk of these sites were smaller long tail and local sites that spoke directly to their audience's interests. These sites were selected for being less cluttered and for having dedicated and enthusiastic audiences with a willingness to interact with advertising.

Was there any user-generated component to this campaign? Did you empower viewers to comment, favorite, download, mashup or do anything to the video?
The regional creative included four tabs, each corresponding to a region of Arizona. While users didn’t directly comment on favorite videos or region, the tracking data showed which tabs users were most interested in viewing, as well as which videos were most effective in garnering interaction and clickthroughs. The tracking data on the video told a very interesting and important story about where travelers were interested in and what videos moved them to act.

How does the video campaign fit into and complement the overall brand strategy for the company?
The Arizona Office of Tourism has always pushed the experience of Arizona in its ad messaging, and their “No Regrets” campaign translated brilliantly online because it was able to fully express the excitement, beauty and range of activities the state has to offer its diverse visitors. These activities include horseback riding, apple picking, water sports, meeting a llama, admiring gorgeous, grand vistas, dining and spa visits.

How would you improve the video campaign?
Given the long list of things to do in Arizona and the user-generated look many of the videos on the regional creative already have, I would have loved to see a weekly or monthly podcast produced with other examples of things to do in Arizona. The banners could have then incorporated a “sign-up to receive our podcasts” or “download this week’s podcast” functionality.

Brand Name: Carl’s Jr. & Hardee’s “Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwich”
Agency/Campaign Creator: Spacedog

What is unusual and effective about the video campaign?
Every now and then a video campaign comes along that really speaks to you. This one literally speaks to you by way of an onscreen actress who, rather than just being a talking head, is fully integrated into the micro site and is aware of all the elements on the screen, including the gigantic spicy buffalo chicken sandwich, the navigation bar, the numerous interactive features, her audience's libido and even when users ignore her for a little while (she gets hungry).

What sort of technology was used?
In addition to made-for-web video, the micro site includes the TV spots for this campaign, a behind-the-scenes video featurette of those commercials, a send-to-a-friend lunch invite with a video walk-through, and a full breakdown on the sandwich’s levels of tastes with a side order of euphemisms and a history of Frank's RedHot. They also had a downloadable coupon, a restaurant locator and a newsletter sign-up. Way to not skimp on any features!

Did it live on the brand’s site, was it distributed through an online video network, viral or was there some other model?
This is a micro site branded for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s with its own URL, aptly named “spicybuffalo.com.”

Was there any user-generated component to this campaign? Did they empower viewers to comment, favorite, download, mashup or do anything to the video?
The lunch date maker is a fantastic bit of viral marketing. Users enter their info and their friend’s info and then select from a number of options to customize the video invite they’ll be sending. The actress makes going for fast food sexy by hula-hooping, doing the robot and doing the sprinkler while congratulating you on your new job promotion or sending apologies on your recent divorce. It’s nice to go to the site and take in the entertainment, but it's even better to send delivery to your friends.

How does the video campaign fit into and complement the overall brand strategy for the company?
This is the same restaurant chain that promoted a burger by having a soapy, sopping wet Paris Hilton wash a car. I definitely think this complements the brand strategy, which I believe is “get 18-34-year-old men to notice us and want us.”

How would you improve the video campaign?
For a community element, they could have encouraged users to upload videos of them using “pick-up” lines for Ashley, or something to promote dialogue between users and the brand. Other than that, I’m a thigh guy.

Brand Name: Levi’s
Agency/Campaign Creator: Avenue A | Razorfish
URL:  http://www.avenuea-razorfish.com/showcase/levis/

What is unusual and effective about the video campaign?
The Levi’s RedWire video banner ads were the result of an ambitious banner-specific production effort. Avenue A | Razorfish shot original video for the web ads and embedded interactivity into the video itself. We created six online ads, three of which were interactive. Each video banner vignette features someone wearing a particular style of Levi’s jeans: Slim Straight 514 for guys, Skinny 503 for gals and the Levi’s RedWire DLX for both guys and gals. Customers could roll over clearly-marked hot spots to see video demonstrations of the unique iPod features in the jeans. For example, two interactive ads showcase the unique features of the Levi’s RedWire Jean that has a made-for-iPod docking cradle and tracking wheel. The interactive video enables the user to learn how to plug an iPod into the jeans, and how to use the retractable clip-on headphones and wired-in joystick.

What sort of technology was used?
We shot the video in high-def and did all post-production digitally. We used a third-party rich media provider to facilitate and deliver the final ad stream and expanding capabilities.

Did it live on the brand’s site, was it distributed through an online video network, viral or was there some other model?
The ads were launched Sept. 15, 2006 and ran through Dec. 31, 2006. They were placed on sites like MSN, MySpace.com and RollingStone.com through the 2006 holiday season. The RedWire video is currently running on levi.com.

Was there any user-generated component to this campaign? Did you empower viewers to comment, favorite, download, mashup or do anything to the video?
There was no user-generated component.

How does the video campaign fit into and complement the overall brand strategy for the company?
Levi’s overall strategy is to create awareness around their wide range of fits and finishes, balancing the classic 501 with newer styles that reflect current fashion trends. For this campaign, we focused specifically on their latest endeavors: skinny, straight jeans and fashion technology. By using interactive video, we reflected their forward thinking approach to fashion with our forward thinking technology.

How would you improve the video campaign?
We learned that the viewer’s attention span is limited. In the future, we’re recommending that video banners be limited to 15 to 20 seconds, not the full 30 seconds allotted. For the Levi’s RedWire banners, we would add sound for more energy.

Brand Name: Dove/Unilever
Agency/Campaign Creator: Ogilvy & Mather (Toronto)
URL: http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com/flat4.asp?id=6909

What is unusual and effective about the video campaign?
The Dove Evolution campaign broke barriers from the typical ad campaign and stirred up quite a bit of attention. This campaign evoked the truth around the extensive amount of retouching and airbrushing that goes into many advertisements.

What sort of technology was used?
Animation and basic editing and retouching was used over filming.

Did it live on the brand’s site, was it distributed through an online video network, viral or was there some other model?
Dove Evolution was a viral campaign launched through YouTube, but it was also placed on the Dove Campaign For Real Beauty site.

Was there any user-generated component to this campaign? Did they empower viewers to comment, favorite, download, mashup or do anything to the video?
Being launched on YouTube, there was a great amount of discussion and debate over this, which can also be found on the Dove website. The campaign certainly empowered users to comment.

How does the video campaign fit into and complement the overall brand strategy for the company?
We’ve seen many campaigns from Dove calling attention to natural beauty. This was yet another successful one, bringing attention to the many layers that revolve around the typical model in an advertisement.

How would you improve the video campaign?
The topic of “Real Beauty” has great for potential to leverage user-generated content. I would like to see Dove offer consumers the ability to show their personal perspective on beauty.

Google now gets more than 60 percent of U.S. search queries, and Yahoo gets about 20 percent; thus, the majority of searches originate on major engines. The top three (Google, Yahoo and Microsoft) are called first-tier engines because they deliver high traffic levels, good conversion rates and the best reporting tools.

Second-tier engines include the smaller niche, vertical and local search engines and directories that are not so well known or popular. These engines typically have less traffic than the majors but offer less competition for keywords and cheaper keyword prices. While second-tiers may get less traffic, even 1 percent of search market share can equal $100 million in revenue.

There are a number of pros and cons to advertising on second-tier search engines. Selecting the right second-tier for your search campaign is key to success, so it's important to investigate every angle, including the engine's user base and income level, reporting tools, campaign management tools and click fraud protection policy. Possible candidates should be tested for ROI before committing large sums of money.

Advantages of second-tier engines
The top benefits of second-tier search engines are as follows:

  • Lower per-click costs

  • Less competition for competitive keywords

  • Highly targeted audiences

  • Quick and easy ad copy testing

  • High touch customer support

  • Additional source of traffic and conversions

While the main advantage is cost, you can also get some great contextual and behavioral offerings for a fraction of what you might pay on first-tier engines. For example, if your target audience is NASCAR fans, you might try advertising on Kanoodle, where your ads appear on a network of search engines and other popular sites like CNET's Search.com and the InfoSpace properties, including Mamma, WebCrawler and Dogpile.

It is important to define your campaign objectives clearly on second-tiers, setting budget restrictions and a timeframe for determining campaign success.

Most second-tiers give you the option of pausing a campaign to take advantage of working hours or click volumes, which can be advantageous for smaller businesses. You can log into your PPC account in the morning, check the previous day's activities, turn on the accounts when you expect the bulk of inquiries and then pause the account when volumes taper off.

Disadvantages of second-tier engines
The top disadvantages of second-tier search engines are:

  • Less traffic volume

  • Lower conversion rates

  • Lower traffic quality

  • Higher click fraud potential

  • Less powerful reporting tools

  • Aggressive sales reps

The most frequent complaints are low traffic volume, low conversions and low-quality traffic. However, you can compensate for reduced traffic volume with a lower cost-per-conversion if traffic converts well, which happens when you test and select your best performers.

While a major concern on second-tiers has been click fraud, many now provide click fraud protection. For example, ABCSearch, 7Search, eZanga and many others offer anti-fraud technology with AdWatcher and Traffic Advisors.

Note that the disadvantages above do not apply to all second-tiers. Some provide robust reporting applications (e.g., Miva), while others provide great traffic and conversions (e.g., Business.com).

It is important to know what a second-tier's unique selling points are, and the best way to find out is to ask a sales rep. Stay away if they don't provide this information.

With so many second-tiers to choose from, it's important to select those that provide the best performance. Your task is to research, test and find the winners that deliver qualified leads and conversions. Ask questions like:

  • What target audience do you serve?

  • How do you define a click?

  • Do you monitor and reimburse for click fraud?

  • Do you give a signup bonus?

  • Do you require a minimum deposit; if so, how much?

  • Do you require a minimum spend; if so, how much?

  • How many unique visitors do you get monthly?

  • What are your visitor demographics?

  • Do you have a content network; if so, can I opt out?

  • Do you have pay-per-call, video or other ad options?

  • How robust are your bid management and reporting tools?

  • Do you have testimonials from people I can contact?

  • How easy is it to reach an account manager?

After satisfying the above questions, use the tips below when planning and managing your campaigns.

  • Campaign goals. State your campaign goals clearly. For example, you may want to focus your ads on selling products or services, promoting an event, gaining registrations or boosting exposure for your blog.

  • Superior ad copy. Create relevant, emotional headlines to get top performance.

  • Precise landing pages. Next to the ad itself, your landing page is crucial for success. Know where you want visitors to land and drive them to a very specific landing page that delivers on the promise of the ad.

  • Demographics. Research the second-tier engine's audience and income levels.

  • Budgeting. Limit your spend and determine ROI.

  • Testing. Allocate a testing budget. Check conversions and ROI before making substantive commitments on second-tiers. The amount of your test budget will depend on company size, PPC budget, number of keywords and keyword competitiveness, etc. If your product or service is not too competitive, you might be able to test for $100 or less.

  • Campaign management. Use campaign management and reporting tools to track your conversions and optimize your keywords, ad groups and campaigns. Check availability and flexibility of tracking tools on second-tiers.

  • Click fraud. Research click fraud protection and reimbursement policies.

Note: The above questions and tips also apply to contextual and vertical search but are not repeated on the following pages.

Most search engines provide advertising on content networks, whereby your ad is displayed alongside content on partner sites for click-through to your landing page. Some second-tiers offer excellent content networks. For example, Business.com has a content network that includes Forbes, BusinessWeek, Hoovers, Financial Times and Entrepreneur -- excellent exposure for a business and finance target audience.

Another good example is MIVA, with a content network that includes both text ads and inline ads on a network of sites including CNET, InfoSpace and Search.com. This might work well if you are selling electronics, software or technical products and services.

There are many details to be aware of when it comes to content networks on second-tiers, so you must study the interface and know the rules. For instance, PPC campaigns are usually automatically opted into the content network on second-tier engines. So if you don't want contextual search, you must opt out.

Advantages of contextual search
Top advantages are lower click costs, less competition and targeted audiences. The cost advantage is greater because keywords on content networks cost less than those on search engines. While you might get fewer conversions, the campaign will likely yield a good ROI.

People spend more time on content sites than search engines. The exposure of your product and website in online content has high value, especially on popular sites. Visitors reading the content online already have a high degree of interest in the topic; thus, if your ad is relevant and catchy, users will likely click through to your site or bookmark it for later consideration.

You can get better visibility at lower cost with contextual search. Content ads are not as competitive as search engine ads because there is more click inventory on publisher sites than on search engine results pages (SERPs). You get less clutter, as content ads are usually displayed in groups of three or four, so your ads will stand out more than in the SERPs.

Disadvantages of contextual search
Content ads provide less traffic and lower conversions than search engine ads. Additionally, the click fraud potential is higher. If your contextual campaign is on second-tiers, the reporting and campaign management tools are not as robust as those provided by first-tier engines.

Conversion rates are lower for contextual search because sometimes ads appear on irrelevant pages and get bad clicks. Additionally, the ads may not distract attention from the site content. Issues of timing and readiness to buy are also a factor. Because contextual ads are displayed on publisher sites through the search network distribution system, they don't display as quickly as ads displayed directly in search results. That lowers conversion rates.

Prospects reaching your site from a search engine ad are likely ready to buy because they are actively searching keywords, looking for the products and services queried. However, prospects viewing your contextual ad are likely reading about a related topic. They might click through or bookmark, but are not likely to make a purchase.

Branding is a top marketing objective. It makes sense to use content ads for branding rather than direct response because of the audience's mindset. Users are not actively searching for your product or service but encounter your ad while reading related content. Therefore, contextual ads require different creative, keyword lists, landing pages, bidding strategies and ROI goals than ads on search engines because you are reaching more passive users at an earlier stage in the buying cycle.

Keyword selection is highly specialized. Rather than target keywords describing your brand, product or service, your list should include words that appear most frequently on the pages where you want your ads to appear.

Copy in your ads must stand out and distract with a clear call to action. Use special offers and promotions. Create a sense of urgency with time-sensitive appeals. Test and retest copy. Use your ads to leverage the interest built up through the content on the page.

Test search engine and contextual campaigns separately to adjust different campaign elements depending on performance. Develop competing contextual ads for different search engines to identify winners. Don't test before or during holiday shopping seasons, as results would be skewed.

Contextual advertising can expose your brand or product/service to thousands of prospects you might not otherwise reach, but careful crafting and testing is required for success.

Vertical search engines (VSEs) are specialized engines and directories providing search results from content databases related to a specific industry, geographic area or topical subject. Vertical search includes local search, topical search (e.g., travel, soccer, hobbies, etc.) and B2B industrial search. The information below refers to topical and B2B industrial search more than local search. For detailed information on local search, see "Strike business gold in local search."

As content on Google and Yahoo increases exponentially, it becomes more challenging to find relevant results in major search engines. In 2006, Outsell reported a 31.9 percent failure rate among business users when researching topics on general search engines. Since then, vertical search engines have increased in number and popularity. This makes VSEs an excellent venue for additional sources of traffic and conversions.

Advantages of vertical search
Vertical search can give you more leads for less money. As top ROI and positioning becomes harder to achieve on general search engines due to keyword competition, marketers get better rates on VSEs -- an excellent way to get brand exposure for attracting new clients.

If your product requires direct response, users searching on vertical engines are closer to making a purchase decision. VSEs frequently advertise on major search engines, bringing additional traffic and potential customers to your site.

Vertical search engines provide more advertising options than you'll find on general search engines. This includes banner ads, email blasts, sponsored placements, blog posts and industry newsletter ads.

Customer service is excellent on VSEs, and many provide help centers that take you through the online advertising process.

Users can reach highly targeted audiences in smaller databases that provide first-hand knowledge and information within the industry or niche.

Disadvantages of vertical search
Despite the advantages listed above, many VSEs fall short in attracting users. Why? Research from E-consultancy-Convera (2008) shows 38 percent of respondents don't always find a good vertical in their field, and 32 percent said vertical results were not comprehensive enough.

While 93 percent of respondents said they were "very" or "quite likely" to use a vertical in their field, the majority (91 percent) said they simply rely on major search engines. Only 7 percent admitted using a vertical engine several times a day. Interestingly, only 7 percent of respondents rated vertical results as "excellent" versus 27.5 percent that gave top marks to general search. It would appear vertical search needs to improve results as most respondents rated VSEs as "good" or "average."

As long as general search is good enough and online habits die hard, it is difficult to move most users beyond Google.

It is important to research the engine to ensure it actually targets your industry or niche. Ask about the size of the index (i.e., the number of product and service classifications). It is also important to test the site for ease of use. If you find it hard to use, chances are potential customers will, too.

Index size is a good indicator of success, as the larger the classification system, the more companies, products and services will be listed. User numbers are also higher with larger index sizes, making it more likely your ads will be seen.

You can find appropriate vertical engines for advertising your business in DMOZ, the Yahoo! Directory or NYPL.org. Once you develop a list of engines for your target audience, you can discuss your advertising options with an ad sales representative.

VSEs provide a variety of ad options, including PPC ads on the engine or the content network, cost-per-impression (fixed rate based on x-number of page views), cost-per-action (pay for conversions) and fixed fee (flat rate for specified actions). You can test the different options yourself or take the advice of a reputable VSE rep who can advise which options are best for your business.

There are many good paid search advertising opportunities on second-tier engines, content networks and vertical search engines. However, one must weigh the advantages and disadvantages in finding the best sources of alternate search traffic. Once you do your homework, the use of these ad vehicles can increase your marketing ROI with more visibility, lower keyword prices, less competition and more traffic and conversions.

Claudia Bruemmer is a freelance writer-editor and internet marketing consultant.

Kevin Ryan founded the strategic consulting firm Motivity Marketing in April 2007. Ryan is known throughout the world as an interactive marketing thought leader, particularly in the search marketing arena. Today's Motivity is a group of...

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