Media: Double Standards - 'Our technology could kill the boozy media lunch'

Search marketing gurus on the new medium that could radically change the face of the industry.

AMANDA JONES - HEAD OF SEARCH, I-LEVEL

- How has search impacted on the retail habits of consumers?

Today's consumer purchasing habits are complex and search provides the necessary starting blocks. Consumers are far more savvy as a result of using search engines, which may not be a good thing for retailers!

- Are advertisers and planners discouraged from using search because of difficulties understanding the complex technology it uses?

Yes, but I don't think it's the technology putting them off. Certainly the search engines don't help; many of their employees lack media skills required to communicate the medium well, and the US-centric search companies don't offer the right client-servicing levels.

- Is there a danger of advertisers over-bidding on keywords, and if so, does this lead to diminishing returns and how can it be prevented?

Over-bidding is a problem but the more you trade and learn, the better your returns will be. A sound understanding of the advertiser's business model will help to understand the true value of the click.

- What has been the most exciting development to happen to search during the past 12 months?

Video Search will be huge and I'd back Blinkx in this race. I love it when dodgy search engine optimisations get dropped by Google, and there have been a few this year. And MSN Search, of course - bring it on!

- How can planners at media agencies integrate search into wider campaigns?

Search schedules need to be planned alongside TV, press and online display for maximum return. Affiliate programmes must be regulated and tailored to search marketing.

- How big a problem is click fraud? How can we stop it happening?

There is too much scaremongering when it comes to click fraud. It isn't as big in the UK, because the search engines have learnt from the US and are now investing heavily to clean up their listings. It's also very easy for a planner to spot click fraud in the campaign performance, and the engines are prompt in their follow-up - they have to be, or users and advertisers will lose trust in the model.

- How will the growth of local search impact the market?

Consumers are turning away from their Yellow Pages and researching local products and services online, so the ad revenue potential is huge. Local search usage will be further encouraged by useful add-ons such as maps, directions and community-based info.

- How could search technology change the way we buy other media?

Search technology will further facilitate the targeting and delivery of other media ads. More worryingly, it could change the face of the media industry as we swap booze-fuelled lunches for checking our daily spend caps every hour!

- Is Google's dominance of search a good or bad thing for the market?

Don't get me started on this one. Google's dominance will continue for as long as searcher habits stay lazy. Try another search engine, for god's sake! There are plenty of other good ones out there!

- How did you come to work in search marketing?

No-one else at my previous company (Mediaedge:cia) would take it on, so my predecessor suggested I might be mad enough. The best thing that has ever been dumped upon me.

- What are your favourite websites and why?

YouTube and MySpace - consumer-generated content is the future; Sportspubs.co.uk is great for finding the right pub to watch the game; and, of course, Search Engine Watch for those search-geeky moments!

PAUL FRAMPTON - HEAD OF DIGITAL, MEDIA CONTACTS

- How has search impacted on the retail habits of consumers?

Most consumers would not consider a purchase without researching it online. A few years ago, this only applied to items such as CDs and books, but today search plays a key role in markets as large as property and travel.

- Are advertisers and planners discouraged from using search because of difficulties understanding the complex technology it uses?

To a certain extent, yes, this is partly about technology and the uniqueness of search as a channel. Search management is often more like playing the stock markets, but it shouldn't be forgotten that it's just another channel.

- Is there a danger of advertisers over-bidding on keywords, and if so, does this lead to diminishing returns and how can it be prevented?

The competition has seen bid prices in certain sectors inflate rapidly and savvy players adapting their bid strategy throughout the day. This will only lead to diminishing returns if it is not monitored and optimised accordingly.

- What has been the most exciting development to happen to search during the past 12 months?

The launch of MSN Search (and the promise of demographic search) and the introduction of Pay Per Call by Miva opening up the floodgates for call-centre traffic from search.

- How can planners at media agencies integrate search into wider campaigns?

Through highly integrated account teams, shared data resourcing and a culture that promotes teams from differing skill-sets. This is a challenge for the biggest agencies because of the sheer number of people involved.

- How big a problem is click fraud? How can we stop it happening?

The onus is on Google, Yahoo! and MSN to provide a solution to give advertisers peace of mind. Media Contacts uses a variety of tools to spot click fraud and is testing a product using its own proprietary technology, Artemis, which will flag multiple clicks from the same internet protocol address in a short period of time.

- How will the growth of local search impact the market?

Local search is at an early stage and to date the technology has restricted the opportunities for advertisers. Search can already be made local by combining any given locality with your keyword list, but the killer app comes when technology facilitates different copy by region.

- How could search technology change the way we buy other media?

Through dMarc broadcasting, Google US already offers the opportunity to buy and sell radio through a web interface. As niche broadcast content becomes more prevalent, we could see programme packages being auctioned.

- Is Google's dominance of search a good or bad thing for the market?

Agencies and advertisers alike welcome the entrance of MSN Search. Google does a very good job of delivering "global" search results but consumers increasingly want more relevant results.

- How did you come to work in search marketing?

Media Contacts has a number of leading travel and finance clients and it quickly became apparent that search would be key as a distribution channel - thus we invested early in technology and analytics.

- What are your favourite websites and why?

I like Unitedrant.co.uk, as it's a straight-talking blog that goes behind the scenes of Man United. I also use Netvibes, a fantastic Web 2.0 homepage product that allows me to have one place for all my feeds. Gives Microsoft and Yahoo! something to aspire to.

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