After a consumer's curiosity is piqued by watching a broadcast branding ad, they head straight to the Internet to uncover more information. If the advertiser didn't invest in keywords on search engines, they end up where AT&T did after spending millions to introduce m-life (its mobile initiative) in Super Bowl ads four years ago. Consumers flocked online to find out what m-life was. But since the telecom hadn't purchased any search terms related to the ads, consumers remained clueless about the concept. AT&T was nowhere.
TV keyword connections
And many marketers are still nowhere when it comes to continuing the conversation with the consumer after running a branding commercial and remaining top of mind through the buying cycle.
"Marketers are basically used to a spray-and-pray kind of world ... and hope it reaches the right audience -- and they are taking the same type of approach online," says Peter Hershberg, managing partner at search agency Reprise Media. "We have clients that have as many as 12 different agencies, and none of them talks to each other."
Search, experts like Mr. Hershberg say, should be the hub of an integrated advertising campaign. The reason is simple-the Internet is where consumers now go to research and decide about what products they should buy. Laptops share the couch as consumers watch TV, according to a SIMM study that showed 66.2% of consumers regularly use TV and the Internet simultaneously.
Once online, 80% of Internet traffic begins at a search engine, according to a Harris Interactive poll. And 41% of Web users find brands through search rather than just by typing a URL into their browser, a DoubleClick study reported. "People are using search engines as browsers," says Bryan Wiener, president at agency 360i, New York.
Connect the dots
"Search is the place where the consumer connects the dots and, if you are not there, they will not seek you out online and not engage with you offline," says Cam Balzer, director of search strategy, Performics, a division of DoubleClick.
Search revenue growth figures are getting noticed in boardrooms. Top engine Google is expected to rake in nearly one-quarter (23.8%) of online ad revenue this year, while No. 2 player Yahoo Search is predicted to grab 11.2%, according to online market researcher eMarketer. In a recent inadvertent filing to analysts, Google mistakenly revealed its internal ad revenue projections of reaching $6 billion in ad revenue this year, shooting up to $9.5 billion in 2007.
But search agencies complain that just a minority of marketing plans include search media. No one has yet estimated how many dollars are lost by not integrating search, but anecdotally the potential hit to marketers is huge. "The risk to marketers is they do a great job creating interest and awareness...then someone sees a search and doesn't see your brand, so they go nowhere," Mr. Balzer said.
Lack of coordination
Another problem is the marketer that runs search ads -- but forgets to tell the search agency of a traditional media effort. Buyers have long known that search can be used to track response in other channels because there is typically an uptick in search when a catalog drops or a TV campaign runs. "We've been a bit frustrated to see that search campaigns will run better over a certain period of time and we don't know why -- it's only later that we find out that the client ran a radio or TV campaign at that time," Mr. Hershberg says.
"One of the key drivers of search is TV," says Stuart Frankel, general manager of Performics.
On that topic, Mr. Hershberg wanted to find out how far Super Bowl advertisers could stretch their investments. Burger King was among the best at integrating search with TV spots, he says. Crispin Porter & Bogusky is the Burger King agency of record and VML handles its search buys and online advertising.
First, there was extensive keyword coverage across Google and Yahoo, he says. "They bought everything from 'Burger King' to 'Whopper' and 'Whopperette,"' which most users searched for in response to ads for the new product, he says. Very important for the Super Bowl, the fast-feeder also bought the phrase "Super Bowl commercial" because many consumers want to replay ads post-game.
Burger King's Super Bowl success
Better still, the landing pages consumers reached when they clicked on search copy engaged consumers. "There was a lot of fun, interactive content -- a game, behind-the-scenes video for the ad, outtakes ... they did a really good job," he says.
The current poster child for integrating TV and search is the well-publicized Pontiac ad, he adds. Digitas, Boston, handles Pontiac's online search advertising. The automaker's TV commercial for its new G6 sedan shows the Google home page with the familiar search box containing the word, "Pontiac" and a voice-over saying, "Don't take our word for it, Google 'Pontiac' to find out!" The danger here, of course, is that another automaker could bid higher on Pontiac's keywords and woo away customers. Indeed, Pontiac only got 68% of the traffic online from the ad, according to search researcher Hitwise. "But the buzz about the ad has more than given Pontiac their money's worth," Mr. Hershberg says. Yahoo is starting to place limits, restricting purchases of trademark names only to their owners.
In addition to leveraging offline campaigns, search results also allow media buyers to quantify consumers' response to those offline efforts. But as a branding tool, search can play a big role. For example, to promote the film "Hustle & Flow," Paramount used Google's Site Targeting tool, which lets advertisers choose the sites for ads and purchase the keyword buys on a CPM basis. The studio targeted sites frequented by hip-hop, crunk and rap enthusiasts, along with urban and specific music sites. "They could target those sites specifically," says Patrick Keane, head of sales strategy at Google.
How many keywords to buy?
How many keywords must a marketer buy? While some brands bid on thousands, including branded terms, words related to the offline promotions, generic phrases and local terms, "the key is having a lot of different words, testing them and making sure what words work the best for you," says Ellen Siminoff, CEO of search agency Efficient Frontier. It's not always necessary to buy the top position in search results, she adds. "No. 2, 3, 4 or 5 may be more appropriate," she says, because those positions perform well for the cost.
Another tactical tip is to buy keywords that take into account the length of the buying cycle. A Performics study, "Search Before Purchase," which looked at 30 retail sites in four verticals, demonstrated that consumers search for up to 12 weeks before making a purchase, even for items such as apparel. Consumers do a lot of general searches, using generic terms early on. "They start by searching broadly, not keyed to brand," Mr. Balzer says. Then, they narrow the search down to particular brands of products and location. "They will use that last search on a brand name to navigate to a specific online store," he says.
The key is to have a presence in the search realm. "You want to be there," says Ms. Siminoff. "Even if someone doesn't click on your ad today, they still want to know all the advertisers that sell what they" want.