It could be tough in a discipline dominated by algorithms and bid management, but here's Steak's pitch: Search agencies need a seat at the brand-strategy table so that marketers can listen to what consumers are asking for and then use those insights to inform decisions across all online and offline marketing platforms.
Thought of as geeky
"A lot of [search companies] are treated as third party, kind of geeky organizations," said Oliver Bishop, Steak's CEO. "It's very important for us ... to work from a branding perspective."
Steak was started in 2005 by executives from Espotting, a leading search-marketing company in Europe that provided paid listings to Yahoo, Lycos and Ask before being sold for nearly $186 million.
The agency has roots in search-engine marketing (both search-engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising), but also works in online reputation management, mobile search, digital media planning and buying, affiliate marketing and digital creative. Last year, the company reported about $50 million in annual billings, with clients including British Gas, retailer John Lewis and magazine company Time Out. Steak has about 70 employees worldwide.
As an example of creative search strategy, Steak executives point to recent work for Enjoy England, a website for English tourism. Looking though data, Steak determined many consumers were searching for fishing destinations but that Enjoy England wasn't promoting enough of the country's fishing and water activities. By changing the content of the site to include information about lakes and rivers and then making it easily searchable, Steak was able to produce an uptick in traffic for the client.
'All about engagement'
"Creativity is all about engagement," said Chrysi Philalithes, the launch managing director of Steak, New York. "One of the ways we believe we are being creative is by actually listing to what people are saying."
Steak's U.S. outpost has already started working with clients such as retail chain French Connection, lingerie maker Myla and mobile community FunkySexyCool.
The agency also brought on Noah Elkin, the former VP-corporate strategy for search shop iCrossing, to work in a similar role at Steak.