How Search Keywords Can Upend a Rival’s Strategy

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NEW YORK ( -- Ford Motor Co. spent as much as $2.5 million to promote its Ford Hybrid on the Super Bowl, using Kermit the Frog to emphasize the environmental friendliness of its new car. But General Motors Corp. is benefiting from the ad online.
Ford finds out it ain't easy being green, or to get the right search buy.

That’s because GM was a smarter search marketer than Ford. If a Super Bowl viewer come Monday morning, charmed by Kermit and interested in the Ford Hybrid, typed “Kermit” into Google, the first Web page that came up in the paid search results section was GM’s. The link read, “Live Green, Go Yellow.” Ford’s sponsored link was second. But for the busy shopper looking for an environmentally safe vehicle and who may remember Kermit, but not the Hybrid, the second listing may be too far down.

Drafting on Ford
GM has done a good job of “drafting” on Ford’s ad spending, said Peter Hershberg, managing partner of search agency Reprise Media, which quantified the best performers in search among Super Bowl marketers. “This is one of the most sophisticated things an advertiser could possibly do -- benefit from the spending someone else is doing and actually 'draft them,'" he added, referring to a racing tactic of driving behind another car to benefit from decreased air resistance.

GM’s sponsored link supports a new 30-second spot from Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson, Birmingham, Mich., that broke nationally during the pre- and post-game broadcasts of the Super Bowl for its FlexFuel vehicles that can run on gasoline or ethanol. A GM spokeswoman, perhaps in a sign of just how siloed search marketing still is from the rest of the marketing department, said she wasn’t aware that GM was paying for the search listings to appear in this manner.

Why examine search marketing on Super Bowl Monday? “In many cases, interest in these ads leads people online, so it’s a tremendous opportunity for these advertisers to get more bang for the buck and extend consumers’ brand experience,” said Mr. Hershberg, who compiled a ratings chart of the marketers that did the best and worst in their post-game search marketing.

Best Monday performers
Among the best performers are dot-coms and movie studios. They not only purchased all the keywords related to their Super Bowl ads, but they also connected their commercials to the creative search ad copy. So for Disney’s “Shaggy Dog,” typing in “Shaggy Dog” delivers a first-position link for “The Shaggy Dog Movie.” The ad copy reads: “www.Disney.Go.Com/ShaggyDog. Official Site. As Seen During the Super Bowl. Watch the Full Trailer.”

The trick is not to buy just a large number of keywords, but the most relevant. “It’s understanding all the ways a user might search for your keyword,” Mr. Hershberg said.

The worst performers included PS Cleaner, McDonald's and Outback. PS Cleaner, for example, bought no keywords and does not even show up on organic results, either. “They spent all this money to launch their new brand online and provided no means to find their Web site,” Mr. Hershberg said.

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