I don’t know about you, but lately I walk out of the grocery store wondering what the heck I just purchased for $300. I am the typical shopper, influenced by creative store displays, not to mention my repertoire of recipes, or lack thereof, and cooking ability along with a burning desire to maintain a tidy kitchen.
Beef, poultry, vegetables and kosher pork-flavored tofu aside, I fill my cart with home care products like Windex and 2000 flushes (more like 587, but who’s counting), essentials like Coke and M&M’s, insta-baking products, and … other things we needn’t discuss here. These are items you and I use every day, but why on earth would you use a search engine to find them when most have a ubiquitous presence at local retailers?
I am speaking of CPGs, of course. Not Controlled Porous Glass or the EPA’s Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines, but packaged goods for consumers. A search engine may not be the place to go to find Bisquick, but with the proper ingredients search can be the perfect complement to marketing efforts for everything from bath tissue to candy that melts in your mouth.
Lowdown on the goods
Early in the new millennium when search blossomed from a technological mystery into an honest to gosh online marketing tool, advertisers in the ecommerce sector figured out quickly that search = sales. Travel sites cashed in and auto sites found a quick way to sell more gas guzzlers, but packaged goods brand owners were left out of the mix.
Once search sites finished harvesting the low-hanging, category-killer fruit, they turned to other categories to help them move along in search. “Google had grown its head count around the areas where a central focus was immediately necessary. CPG was one category that was underutilized,” reports Google’s vice president of advertising sales, Tim Armstrong. “By mid 2003, we had invested in a CPG team and by 2004 we had engagements across every major CPG brand. [CPG activity] in search is driven by the diversified offerings for these brands.”
Site providers spoke up, and brands answered. “We’ve tried to go a number of ways. Natural search is the long-term play and our bread and butter. As pay-for-placement search evolved, it became more and more of a priority,” reveals Kate Johnson, relationship marketing manager for Kimberly Clark “From there, optimizing our large scale paid search initiatives became a constant focus to make certain we are in the right place at the right time.”
Creative search experience
A diversified offering translates immediately into creating an experience for users conducting searches for complementary activities and services. Why? Searchers don’t tend to use directive search to locate every day products.
On the other hand, contextual placements may be the no-brainer search positioning for familiar or related search activities. “Contextual placements in AdSense have been more advantageous in using content to reach people,” says Armstrong. “It was really the contextual presence that enabled us to enter the space.”
Contextual advertising may have been the entry point for providers, but positioning (for terms entered into the Google search box) will allow an advertiser immediate control of how consumers perceive their brand. At the same time, positioning can deliver immediate traffic into valuable brand- or product-experience content.
Separating brand and product
Catching a sneeze in a sanitary and disposable delivery vehicle is one of the most common practices known to western man. No one has more experience in marketing to the sneezer than Kimberly Clark, owners of the Kleenex and Scott brands.
“Generally speaking, brands sites take precedence over product pages except when you can send traffic into a site which creates a value-added experience. Traffic to a brand site like Scott is very important, but we also have a value equation for our community site, Scott Common Sense,“ reports Jim Schuh one of Kimberly Clark’s relationship marketing managers. “Traffic building for these content areas is separated into brand and product because it is the right decision and it only makes sense for searchers.”
The idea at this point is to create a value-based destination rather than to collect leads or try to sell online. With a site like Scott Common Sense, the brand owner has taken an otherwise benign product interaction and turned it into a value-based destination. “CPGs have made investments around products to influence buyers in the search space,” advises Armstrong. “They are investing around the services and creating an experience for the brand. Google drives traffic into that experience.”
The process of understanding is clearly ongoing. Simply building a brand site just won’t do it, so how do seek out searchers in an efficient manner?
Packaged search activity
In 1939, Kleenex introduced its True Confessions initiative to help understand how people were using the product. According to the brand owners, people confessed 125,000 times before the campaign ended in 1942. By that time, the makers of Kleenex had a solid understanding of exactly how customers were using the tissue.
As with any marketing initiative, understanding user interaction with products or services is at the core of developing a solid plan. Search marketing is no different. While searches for packaged goods represent millions of user-initiated queries every month, many of these searches are left unanswered.
We needn’t wait years for interaction answers anymore. Some of them are right there in the search box.
Searchers are interacting with CPG sites, as witnessed in a peculiar search phrase which emerges in the Overture search term suggestion tool. A query for terms related to “Kleenex” in Overture’s term suggestion tool reveals a phrase that was searched 95 times in September, 2004. “What year did Kleenex first introduce colored tissue,” is an odd thing to be searching for, don’t you think? Not when you consider that question number seven on the Kleenex brand site’s fun quiz asks exactly that. If the nearly 100 Type-A perfectionist minority felt the need to go out and search for the answer prior to clicking, I’d say that’s exactly the kind of interaction brand owners seek.
Next week: Why agencies should step up and how CPGs define search success.
About the Author: iMedia 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. Ryan believes in sound guidance, creative thought, accountable actions and collaborative execution as applied to search, or any form of marketing. His principled approach and staunch commitment to the industry have made him one of the most sought-after personalities in online marketing. Ryan volunteers his time with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, and several regional non-profit organizations.
iMedia: So take us through the process, please. How can you produce creative, for example, without knowing your client?
AK: We start by making a number of commercials in a generic way. We think we can do a pretty good job of anticipating the needs of clients by having our strategic planners think of companies by categories. We've analyzed the kind of messages these categories have used, and for each category we have come up with a range of communications strategies they can pick from, and a range of commercials that communicate certain attributes and themes.
We've then mass produced the commercials to get the costs dramatically lower. For example, we wrote 40 briefs for the furniture category. In two weeks in the Ukraine, we made 110 commercials fitting about 25 of those briefs. Because we were doing so much work in such a short period of time, we got much better rates from the cameramen, sets, directors and actors.
iMedia: Can you give us some examples of categories you're serving right now?
AK: The first five categories are beds and mattress, furniture stores, executive recruiting, kitchen renovation, and self storage. These are five of the top local advertising categories in many markets, based on current spending. We looked at 300 categories and picked about a dozen. Some others coming soon are health and fitness and financial services. We have about 300 commercials ready to go and another 200 in post production.
iMedia: Can an advertiser just come in and look at all these commercials?
AK: Yes. A client comes to us and looks through our library of commercials online. Each one is priced to reflect production costs and quality. You pick one that works for you, and then you personalize it by adding your pictures, your logo, your call to action, your slogans and your contact info. Basically you make it unique for you. Then you pick a region and a term for licensing it.
A region is essentially a DMA. You can buy a six-month license for the commercial you like, covering one or multiple regions. Or you can license it for longer terms, with a bigger or a smaller buffer zone around the region you want to hit.
iMedia: Do you believe the most advertisers are sophisticated enough to make these kinds of decisions on their own, without professional guidance or advice?
AK: We make it easy. We ask clients to fill out a media questionnaire, which allows us to serve them back a proposed media plan, based on their budget and other needs. It covers media planning for TV, online, out-of-home video, and so forth. We make the proposal, and then the advertiser can pick and choose from what we recommend.
iMedia: Who makes the media buys?
AK: The client contracts with us as their media buying agent and simply becomes a licenser of the rights to use the movie. We facilitate the media buy and traffic the ad. Then we report back on the results. The advertiser doesn't need any other agencies.
We've priced it something like a cell phone, where the phone costs you more if you don't also buy a contract. If you buy a longer term contract the commercial licensing gets cheaper. Clients can license the films without buying their media through us, but then the price is a bit higher.
iMedia: So this way you get to license the same ads to several different advertisers at the same time.
AK: Yes. Everything we do is geo-targeted.
iMedia: Won’t viewers notice they’re seeing the same visuals?
AK: A viewer would notice quite directly that the ads are very much the same. For example, one of our ads shows two guys fencing and then dancing. Certainly, if you see guys fencing and then dancing you're going to remember those two guys from one ad to the other. But the overall ads are differentiated by the personalization devices, which can be a title screen at the end or embedded right into the fabric of the creative. And we make sure none of our other clients will be showing the same ad at the same time in your area.
Some of our core visual elements are used in ads for different categories, too. So when we license an ad to a client, we block out the core elements across all categories.
iMedia: That could be tricky, couldn’t it?
AK: It's no different from a major ad agency using stock photography. There was a time when two big banks both wound up showing an ad with the same stock photography in them. We're simply extending the concept of stock photography to the whole ad.
It's worthwhile because smaller companies don't compete from one region to another. They can choose to spend $50,000 to $70,000 to produce an ad for themselves, or to rent one for $500 over six months.
iMedia: That’s pretty inexpensive.
AK: Actually, some are as low as $50. We can do this because we're producing them in a factory, and we're spreading even that cost over many different users and many different places. And we're selling media behind it as well, instead of forcibly separating the creative and the media buying activities.
Return to Who makes the media buys?
iMedia: So is this the dawn of a new advertising age?
AK: It's an odd concept that people need time to get used to, that they're not the only ones using a commercial. People have varying degrees of comfort with it. But we think it's going to be a major growth area. Think about it: 37 percent of all ad spending is for video, mostly TV advertising. But small businesses that spend $22 billion on all their advertising spend only 1 percent of that money on video. Moving that 1 percent toward that 37 percent will create a major opportunity for us.
What's more, everywhere you look there are more intelligent targeting techniques being rolled out, geographically and demographically. The more targeted you can make your ads, the more interesting it is for local businesses to get involved. National TV is great for national companies, but if you're a local company you're paying to cover thousands of people who will never buy from you. That's why local cable is a great deal for local business. Targeting to a neighborhood is even better and is going to create new opportunities for local targeting. But you’re still going to need a good ad.
On Google you can now geo target an ad down to 12 square miles, and you can overlay demographic targeting on top of that. Essentially, you can create a pretty local broadcast of your video. But you still need a good ad.
What's coming next for TV, partly in reaction to the threat of the internet, is deployment of even more targeting tools, so TV can stay competitive with the other kinds of targeting. For example, Google has already announced an initiative with BSkyB to target ads in the U.K. down to the household. That's somewhat future speak because that's not going to happen in 2007, but once it's done, a local business in Glasgow can run a video ad targeted to senior citizens in Glasgow. But you're still going to need a good ad.
iMedia: How does Spotzer fit into this future scenario?
AK: We like to think we have two core competencies: Good ads at low prices and a strong ability to help match local business with local inventory. We don't own any media, but we're building a lot of technology that searches the avails and serves up the ones that best match a client's needs, demographics and the area they're trying to reach. Big businesses are far more complicated, so it's easier for us to serve the simpler needs of smaller businesses.
Very simply, we come in here every day trying to build something of value. We're natural allies with a lot of businesses and agencies that want to sell more media, broaden their reach, and so forth. We're just trying to do some smart things that make a real business. If that happens, the rest tends to take care of itself.
Robert Moskowitz is a consultant and author who speaks and writes frequently in the United States. Read full bio.
You know you're a digital marketer if you're pretty sure SXSW peaked in 2007.
As you know, all able-bodied digital marketers are called upon to make a pilgrimage to Austin each spring to receive a headful of digital innovation/inspiration and a bellyful of smoked brisket. But this annual ritual is also accompanied by obligatory blog-based belly-aching (at least partly brisket-induced, one has to believe) about how "South-by" just ain't what it used to be – it's now too corporate, too unfocused, or contains too many fauxhawks.
This is due, in part, to the fact that 2007 is to SXSW what 1977 is to punk -- the annus mirabilis that changed everything that came after. Twitter was announced at the 2007 show, and there hasn't been a watershed of that magnitude since. (But that might actually be true of digital marketing rather than SXSW specifically.) So if you were there in '07, you have a certain glimmer to your digital marketing star that the rest of us lack. And to all you whippersnappers who hadn't even graduated in 2007 but are nonetheless driving the industry forward at SXSW and everywhere else -- well, you just shoulda been there, man. You shoulda been there.
You know you're a digital marketer if you secretly can't understand who wouldn't want targeted ads.
OK, admit it. You've pondered with requisite sobriety and chin-stroking the legitimate privacy concerns raised in the debate over tracking cookies and big data, but in your dark little marketer heart, you don't really understand why anyone wouldn't want ads to be more relevant to them. When I leaf through the quaintly rustling pages of my beloved New Yorker (OK, I'm lying, I read it on my iPad), and I see ads "targeting" me with a Patek Philippe diving watch, it is of no surprise to me that print ad revenues are plunging like a Patek Philippe strapped to an anchor. I'm sure I will be buying a quarter-million dollar watch right after I splurge on a rug to replace the one that the dog keeps peeing on.
No, I say, give me a digital publication that knows me, where I can still be targeted with Jeep ads two years after buying the damn Jeep. (Wait, no, bad example.) The point is, I like it when Gmail reads a reference in my email to "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" and then targets me with Viagra ads. (Wait, no, also bad.)
Maybe the point is that we've got some work to do in making ad targeting more refined, elegant, and relevant, and then everyone will think it's as cool as we do.
You know you're a digital marketer when everything has a "long tail."
If digital marketing had a mascot (and why don't we, by the way?), it would have to be the lemur, distinguished for the length of its tail (and the wetness of its nose, but I'm not sure that's relevant here). The long tail is the digital marketer's friend not only because it sounds impressive and looks cool in an infographic, but also because it pretty accurately describes a lot of what we do.
Chris Anderson popularized the metaphor in his eponymous 2004 book, and digital marketers have been invoking it ever since. As you no doubt know, since iMedia alone has published 541 articles containing the term, the long tail refers to the statistical distribution of a whole lot of small-scale activity as opposed to one big heap of activity, or in our case, the ability to micro-target specific interests instead of aiming for the mass market.
We're fond of telling each other there's gold in the long tail, and it is here that the elegance of the metaphor begins to break down, since tails do not typically contain gold, but rather burrs, fleas, and matted hair. Still, if you've used the term in the last month to describe your search strategy, your online merchandising, or the persistent recurrence of that Space Nazi movie in your Netflix recommendations, then congratulations -- you're one of us.
You know you're a digital marketer when you'd rather read an infographic.
I was going to go all meta on you and replace this section with an infographic about the popularity of infographics, but it turns out that some clever and more visually gifted people beat me to it. So I will instead tout their work here and here. Digital marketers especially love infographics because we tend to drink a little more deeply from the firehose of big data, and we need ways to convey said data to colleagues who prefer the drip hose.
We are living in the grand age of visualization, and while some might complain that spinning complex ideas into colorful confectionaries in a candy-store window frame is a way of substituting fluff for substance, I say we are none the worse for it. In fact, I lay down the challenge (and it should be noted that no challenge I have laid in my articles has ever been taken up) for someone to jump on the bandwagon of those "Year of [Insert Jackass Idea Here]" books and spend a year getting 100 percent of their new media content from infographics. I submit that this brave soul would emerge better informed, more expressive, and 20 pounds heavier, because damned if those infographics don't look like snack food labels. Or maybe that's just me.
You know you're a digital marketer when you've blogged or tweeted somebody else's social media fail.
I've written before about the digital marketer's passion for social media schadenfreude -- taking pleasure in the social media mishaps of others -- but I had to include it here because it remains one of our most enduring traits. As enduring as the mishaps themselves. It might, in fact, be our all-time favorite topic. Don't believe me? Go take a quick gander at the last couple dozen posts in iMedia's social media article section. Go ahead, I'll wait.
I know, right? We can't help ourselves. I happen to think it's not cruel though. We tell each other these spooky stories in order to teach object lessons, in the same way the Brothers Grimm were warning little German children not to take candy from witches, thereby ending the Candy-Wielding Witch Epidemic of the early 19th century. Ounce of prevention, folks.
And while I'm on the subject, let me give credit where credit is overdue. The digital marketers who manage social channels live on the lonely, windswept frontier of the digital experience, buffeted by unfiltered customer feedback, the vagaries of new technology, and the occasional request for a PPT to show upper management how social media is being "monetized." If they need to engage in a little schadenfreude to get through the day, I say, "OMG, did you hear about Amy's Bakery? Epic fail."
You know you're a digital marketer when television ads seem quaint.
Thanks to the magic of Netflix streaming, HBO Go, and cable on demand, I can go a long time without ever seeing a TV ad -- or as we digital marketers like to call them, "pre-roll." When I do spot one, it has the alluring strangeness of a dog walking on its hind legs.
Our TV ad diet has become so lean that we actually grow nostalgic and seek them out. We visit YouTube for a glimpse of yesteryear in much the same way that tourists flock to Pennsylvania Amish Country. I'm exaggerating of course; TV ads are not nearly as interesting as Amish Country. Except in the, ahem, long tail: The best ads become YouTube sensations, which in turn drives creative agencies to produce more sensational ads. So let's take a moment to savor the irony that the medium's decline is also driving its best work. And then move on, cuz we work in digital.
You know you're a digital marketer when you totally had that idea that somebody just paid $1 billion for.
The blessing and the curse of digital marketing is that we're never more than one degree removed from some of the biggest areas of innovation -- which is to say, the biggest piles of coin -- in contemporary culture. Having a front-row seat is fun, but it's not nearly as fun as being in the parade.
To make matters worse, there seems to be some grade inflation going on here in Dotcom Spending Spree 2.0. Why, I remember back in my day, when you actually had to make more money than you were losing to be worth $1 billion. Kids today. I'm tellin' ya.
So sidle up to the bar and tell me, one digital marketer to another, about the big ones that got away. Tell me about how you had an idea for microblogging back in 2006, how you half-drafted a business plan for a photo-sharing app, and how one of your kids once bit the other one's finger in a particularly hilarious way, if only you'd gotten it on video. Hey, I believe you. I've been there. I actually had the idea for Yahoo! several minutes before Jerry Yang did. (I was going to call it "Tarnation!" But same premise.) I should be writing billion-dollar checks. But we persevere. Courage and strength, my digital brethren, and may we meet again at The Next Big IPO.
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