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SearchTHIS: Yahoo! & the Search Brand

Kevin M. Ryan
SearchTHIS: Yahoo! & the Search Brand Kevin M. Ryan

Question: What do you do when you really want to make a splash in this crazy new search media world?

Answer: Dive in with Yahoo! Search as a couple hundred of Yahoo's closest friends did last week at the Yahoo! Search Marketing Brand Summit.

Miraculously, the trend of bringing in traditional media folks to explain how interactive is going to evolve continues. Last week's event at the posh (even for L.A. posh) Westwood, California W. Hotel brought a few bright interactive marketing minds together who offered best practices to help brands better understand search engine marketing.

What does the future hold for search? How are big brands measuring success? And, most importantly, what does Bob Garfield's Chaos Theory have to do with search? Plenty. Let's take a stroll down new media lane for the answers.

Tomorrow land and group therapy

Yahoo!'s first ever Search Marketing Brand summit opened with Bob Garfield revisiting his Chaos Theory presentation. If you haven't seen the presentation or worse, haven't read the story, please back away from your computer and begin looking for a new career. Perhaps you would be better suited to fly fishing or dropping down-riggers to score trout on Seneca Lake.

Garfield set the stage perfectly for a leading edge search and brand discussion. He cited the networks' horrible situation via this year's upfronts and the negative circumstances surrounding scatter markets -- two terms which probably went over the head of 90 percent of the interactive marketing audience. Upfront and scatter market really aren't terms used by us backward interactive advertising people.

I really don't think anyone missed Bob's point however: There's trouble coming the traditional marketing folk's way in the form of an interactive gang of black hats. I believe the actual term he used was cluster-something.

Network giveth, video search tidal wave taketh away

Garfield managed to locate a bunch of obscure video clips taken from around the web. One happened to be a home video of either a Tsunami victim or a home in the Southeastern United States experiencing hurricane flooding.

One clip from Tucker Carlson depicted Jon Stewart calling Carlson a "dick" on live television. Somewhat less than funny was download data behind the video experience: 400,000 people saw it live while over four million downloaded the file. Garfield was quick to point out that once the true potential of video search is realized, our current download and ad spending levels will seem silly.

Of course, we still have a few barriers to entry and the chaos-themed presentation illustrated them well. The biggest obstacle is resistance to change. After all, network execs have summer homes, cosmetic surgery bills and country club dues to contend with every month.

Capacity is always an issue with interactive while audiences from other media remain comparatively larger. What is the context of your brand presence? Are your luggage ads appearing next to editorial on the London bombings? Cost and metrics go hand in hand since success criteria and interactive pricing can still be categorized as a sloppy mish-mash at best. 

Then there's the small problem of alienating our audience. We have conditioned users to dislike many aspects of the online experience -- spam, pop-ups, spyware and of course, "Scrolling past the paid results to get to the real ones," as Garfield put it.

Case studies on scrolling past

Search engine advertising works, and what better way to segue into why users are not scrolling past the paid listings than with case studies. Carat Interactive, GM Planworks, Performics, RPA and Tribal DDB showed how ubiquitous brands are integrating search engine advertising. 

The underlying theme of the day was integration. GM Planworks' Jennifer Simkins offered the real life example of how the placed appearance of Pontiac's new Solstice on a hit reality show, "The Apprentice," helped sell more cars by using strategic ad placements tied to keywords in search results. Within hours of the car's appearance search activity began, and paid listings were there to answer the query flow.

Integration was the foundation of the Honda Ridgeline truck launch, according to Mike Margolin, associate media director at RPA. The integration philosophy didn't include prime time product placement but graphic representations elsewhere on the web. The idea: generate awareness and then use search to follow up on it.

Irony integration also plays well in search integration. Ron Belanger of BuyDomains, formerly of Carat, offered a case study on how to introduce portal content using keyword advertising on a competing portal. AOL's portal launch budget was dominated by; you guessed it, paid listings on other search sites.

It was interesting to see how more traditional agencies use search tools and the difference in terminology. In a search-centric discussion we would hear search jargon with industry specific terms like algorithmic dancing. In lieu of search technobabble, each presenter discussed how the Yahoo! buzz index and brand metrics were combined with direct metrics to better understand how other media efforts affected search behavior. The word "refreshing" does not do the experience justice.

And now, a few words from Kevin Ryan

Have you noticed the traditional media veterans/new media neophytes getting more press than the Iraqi conflict simply because they seem to have developed a baseline understanding of what might be happening under the hood of an interactive marketing initiative and suddenly want to talk about it?

I am not thinking of Bob Garfield in this capacity -- he made a few good points last week, wrote a spectacular piece on what will probably happen with the interactive world and was one of the first to say what needed to be said.

The computer sword of Damocles for us interactive folks is something else entirely.

The following may be the toughest thing you'll ever have to hear about your future in interactive marketing: Each entrepreneur in our the space; the leaders, the dreamers, and even the best and brightest will be swallowed up by the traditional-media-come-lately folks who couldn't care less about interactive anything, but need to make the mortgage in Chappaqua and the monthly nut on the house in Quogue.

They will pass by you and me -- the interactive revolutionaries -- as they strive to make their sales numbers and giggle at your efforts to change the world. Bank on it.

As for me, I might just adopt a version of the Bob Garfield post Chaos Theory philosophy: By the time the spike falls, I'll be the one tying flies and fighting trout up on Seneca Lake.

iMedia Search Editor 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.
Mr. Ryan is chief strategy officer at Zunch Communications.


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