BtoB: What are some of the trends you see in the search marketing space right now?
Podell: There are a few big trends. One of the things that is happening is a Google backlash. People continue to feel Google is getting too close to the relationships they have. [Google] is getting too close to the brand assets. It’s causing not just marketers but large Web properties to fight back. They are saying, “We’re not going to cede all our relationships to you.”
Rather than have Google Adsense get all the revenue from all the small publishers out there, the large marketer should have those relationships. Why? Because they can provide more value to those small publishers than Google can. Google can provide revenue alone. These small [publishers] want to become trusted information [providers] for the customer. Connecting with a larger marketer can provide that. For example, Dow Jones & Co. should be the one to have that relationship with the smart pundits in its industry [rather than Google].
The large marketer can provide access to critical information and brand equity. It establishes the smaller publisher as a trusted source because of the association with that marketer.
BtoB: What else is going on?
Podell: The other trend, from an advertising perspective, is that sponsored links are going through an evolutionary shift. In the past five to seven years, the ad unit hasn’t really changed. It’s way too early in the industry for there to be no innovation. It’s a text ad, one of five in an ad unit, below the fold. That doesn’t give marketers a real opportunity to stand out above the din. My ad looks like your ad. There’s no differentiation.
The Internet is young, sponsored links are young, and we need to be evolving and advancing the ways our advertisers can be heard.
We’re working on alternate creative units. We’ve come up with a few different creative executions, and we’re creating customized media plans.
What if you could lock in an ad slot for a while rather than constantly managing your bids? What if you could lock in the whole unit instead of the five different ads in the box? You could lock out your competition from running for a period of time, and you’d have more space to communicate your message.
I think the agency community is getting a little bit bored with sponsored links. Marketers are getting bored. It’s been the same thing now for five-plus years. It performs well, but it has become more and more competitive.
Our finance inventory is really popular all day long during market hours. We typically have bids of $8 and $10. After the market closes, the bid prices come way down. We have very useful inventory, but maybe not to the same advertisers we’ve been selling it to. What if we had a sleep aid there, and the message could reach financial executives when they are awake and shouldn’t be? We need to acknowledge our business is not one-dimensional. There’s real opportunity there.