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Google SearchFirestarters 4: Search Marketing That Wins Awards


The fourth of our spin off series of Google Firestarters events specifically for the search marketing community was held the other day. We'd themed the event around award-winning search campaigns, prompted by feedback around the opportunity that many in the search community believe exists to reconsider the value and role of search marketing within the great campaign ideas, strategies and executions of our time. But it was notable that the debate ended up being framed in a much wider context around the future of search marketing, and even media. 

Key to broadening this discussion were three excellent provocations. Will Critchlow, co-founder of Distilled, took a big picture view on the changing role of search within integrated multi-channel campaigns. It is, he said, easy to forget how much search activity is still growing and changing, with screens, input methods, behaviours, and contexts all blurring across devices and locations. We don’t, for example, use mobile devices just because we have to (Google/Nielsen data indicating that 77% of mobile searches are conducted in a location (like work or home) where a PC is likely to be easily available).

But this becomes even more interesting in the context of big screens, where wireless connections open up the big screen to content from anywhere, and in the other direction TV content being available everywhere. So TVs become just another screen, more content and another behaviour. And as connectivity increases (85% of the planet will be covered by 3G+ within 4 years according to Ericsson), mobile data usage grows exponentially, and technology plays an ever greater role in not just how we consume media but how we filter content.

So as more media is digitised, more marketing becomes digital first, and more paid media is about promoting great content, a much larger proportion of media buys across multiple channels will increasingly look like search: algorithmic, auction-based, real-time (and with closed measurement loops). Just look at what's happening with digital display and video advertising. But for the award winning campaigns of the future, we need to get better at some key things first: measuring the brand impact of online activities (like popular branded content); re-targeting; better segmentation by consumer activity; targeting that is at least as good as some organic recommendations are becoming. All of which positions search marketers, and particularly those who are adept at combining the maths and the magic, rather well.

Nathan Guerra, a former Head of Innovation at AMV and now Industry Head at Google, followed this with a great talk on the creative potential of search marketing. He focused on a more three dimensional view of search beyond traditional direct response and acquisition objectives, and its potential for roles as diverse as reputation management, PR, and a more creative one within the context of the current vogue for content marketing. Nathan used a number of different examples including Converse Domaination, iCrossing's work for Ann Summers, and my own favourite (which recently won a Media Week award) – Snickers Google Misspellings:

Ben Latham from Summit Media rounded this off with a fascinating but wholly different perpective, talking about their award winning work for Argos. Tasked with driving a sharp increase in online sales and at the same time lowering the cost of sale, some early analysis revealed some key metrics that were device specific. Bidding strategy and cost of sales targets based on position were found to be critical for mobile, and day parting was identified as an opportunity for increasing market share.

Taking these learnings, they set out to deliver a campaign that took the concept of delivering the right message at the right time to a whole different level. The real challenge, with a constantly evolving product portfolio, was scalability. Separate accounts to operate mobile and tablet independently from desktop needed to be created, the number of managed keywords needed to be increased from 800,000 to over 9 million, and the number of live campaigns from 4,000 to 8,000. Aligning budget more closely to search volume (using Google Trends), and device to day part targeting, and product category phasing to optimise ROI, they developed technology that took a product feed, and enabled them to create and update PPC campaigns easily and at scale against set rules and criteria in response. This meant that those 9 million keywords could be optimised on a daily basis, incorporating no less than 300k to 500k changes daily within the campaign. Creative was dynamically updated based on price and range messaging, and a bid strategy was based on stock availability. At 1am on Christmas Day for example, over 3 million PPC ads were changed in 30 minutes. The results of this phenomenal undertaking was a 33% increase in PPC results from the previous year and a cost of sales under 25% of target.

So, in the space of three talks and little more than an hour we had three very different perspectives on our theme ranging from a provocative but insightful view on the future of search marketing (and wider, on the future of media), to some great examples of creativity in search, to some amazing applications of technology and optimisation. Is search marketing undervalued in industry awards? Quite probably. Are there lessons to be had from the practice of search marketing (and the best it has to offer) for the rest of media and marketing? Undoubtedly.

So my thanks to our excellent speakers, to Google of-course for hosting, and to all those that attended. As usual we had the brilliant Scriberia visualising the talks and you can see the final illustration in all it's glory here. As always, if you have an idea for a subject you'd like us to tackle, let me know.


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