Media Agencies Bulk Up on Search Marketing

WPP, Interpublic and Aegis Follow the Money

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NEW YORK ( -- Group M, the umbrella unit that oversees WPP media networks MindShare, Mediaedge:cia, MediaCom and Maxus, today said it will create a search-engine-marketing specialty. That move follows news of Interpublic Group of Cos. taking a stake in search-marketing firm Reprise Media and Aegis Group's elevation of an executive to oversee global search efforts.
Rob Norman, CEO of Group M Interaction
Rob Norman, CEO of Group M Interaction

Group M will build its search offering by elevating Outrider, a search-marketing company acquired in 2001, to Group M from its position in Mediaedge:cia. As part of Group M, Outrider will provide resources to all Group M media networks.

The global search race
In 2006, paid search comprised 42.5% of ad dollars spent online, and is expected to remain at that level for the next four years, according to eMarketer. So it's not surprising media agencies are racing to build their competence in search marketing, particularly on a global level.

"Up until now, MindShare, MediaCom through its Beyond Interactive unit, and MediaEdge through Outrider, have each created their own approaches to search. Now we'll build one resource around Outrider that will unify technology; tools in the campaign-management and -planning area; and training," said Rob Norman, CEO of Group M Interaction. "Now, there'll be one Group M aggregated view."

The point: integration
Group M will appoint search-engine strategists within each of its media agencies who will report to Outrider Managing Director Chris Copeland. The agency-search strategists will work side by side with communications-planning executives on each account. The point, Mr. Norman said, is to integrate search with the full offering of each media agency.

Globally, Mr. Norman said Group M will create a search engine expertise in each of the markets in which WPP's networks operate -- 30 plus by the end of the year.

Group M's Outrider move comes just as rival Interpublic, parent of media agencies Initiative and Universal McCann, announced its purchase of Reprise Media, a search-marketing company with offices in Boston, New York and San Francisco. The deal, led by Bant Breen, head of Interpublic's Futures Marketing Group, a recently established unit similar to WPP's Group M, marks Interpublic's first deal in search marketing. Reprise Media founders and Managing Partners Peter Hershberg and Joshua Stylman report to Mr. Breen; the company has worked closely with several Interpublic agencies, including Universal McCann, for shared clients such as Microsoft.

Terms of the Reprise-Interpublic deal were not announced.

Online purchases going up
Earlier this month, Aegis Group digital network Isobar appointed Fredrick Marckini, founder of Isobar search-engine-marketing company iProspect, as its first-ever chief global search officer to deliver consistent service and reporting in every major market in which Isobar operates.

Marketers are boosting spending in search-engine marketing because consumers are increasingly using search to make purchases online. What's more, for media agencies and their clients, understanding consumer search behavior offers a treasure trove of data about consumer intention. "Our business has always been about predicting what consumers might do," Mr. Norman said. "Search behavior actually tells us what they intend to do. Each time a consumer searches Google for, say, a washer, then adds an adjective, such as Kenmore, we get closer to knowing what they're after."

Integrating search within the agencies, Mr. Norman maintained, is an added benefit because the volume of search clicks is influenced by several factors -- from positioning in search results through optimization to relevant copy to ads running on other media. "Our view is we can take a more holistic view."
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