Do Traditional Advertising Agencies "Get Search?"
It's clear from this panel (and now the feel of SMX East 2008) that we're entering the third age of SEM, which is about the the entire big-agency world folding into search, social, paid and content. Holistic and effective integration, driven from top-down-creative-think, is becoming the norm more and more.
The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on West 34th Street center is teeming with folks at their first conference and seasoned vets' alike. The "Ad Agencies & Search Marketing" panel was a harbinger of the world to be, the world search already is, the big agency world. Search is taking its rightful place as the 800 LB gorilla at the marketing mix table. Each of the speakers shared lovely insight regarding their experience as search grows up.
Moderator: Sara Holoubek, Consultant, Columnist and SEMPO Board of Directors began by offering stark insight. Much as traditional search marketers would love to dis' agencies she feels times are changing. Sara pointed out that agencies DO "get it" on a massive scale now. This evolution comes a as a result of mergers, acquisitions and consolidation in the industry. The session comprised of Moderator-Sara interviewing the distinguished panel, with no .ppt presentation slides.
Her questions were insightful, probing and...you had to be here to totally appreciate the experience in the room. Here are a selection of concept-statements discussed in this rapid fire back and forth exchange amongst industry peers. Much of my impressions during this session embody actual quotes from speakers. Some not. I invite the speakers do climb in this thread and provide input and any notes they had coming in. Wish we had a recorder and transcriptions guys :).
Jason Clement, Director of Search, Wieden Kennedy
Do agencies get it? It depends who the agency is. Creative agencies who are holding overall strategy might not get it. However, this notion that agencies can't have successful search departments is completely false. We're hired because we make the best "media neutral decisions" surrounding the media planning process, so as to make best recommendations to serve clients. Unlike traditional SEMs who are "bound to the books" of the business they, do when it comes to how much they can spend, advertising agencies tend to have a broader base and a little bigger stage to grow campaigns financially and creatively.
One thing missed as agencies picked up search, is the creative. Mapping creative strategy back to search has been difficult, to have creative ideas to launch sites and applications that are truly search driven. You can take search and move it beyond the media buy and really start thinking search as a "communications tool."
Jason dismissed the varying price of similar deliverables, anecdotally proffered by an audience member. The questioner noted that, to his mind, in a stack of redundant estimates and analysis, the agency recommendations tended to be exponentially expensive. Jason basically said that he doubted that any of the agencies charging less,could bring execution, might not know the business they were pitching to and might not bring the overall value of a pitching-agency. Thanks for being cool about the question Jason :) .
Chris Copeland, CEO, GroupM Search, The Americas
So Chris, do agencies get it? "I think it depends on what it is. "It = paid search = Google" is a known quantity for most agencies. I think they get, it there's a concern, there's attention. Agencies are more problem = solution rather than opportunity = solution." PPC has a cost and ROI association so agencies can relate. When it gets into organic search things "get more questionable for both the agency and their clients." "Let's understand how we ad value to the process and go from there."
You've got a 10 year industry, search. It's hard to transition client communications, from the perspective of traditional media. It's hard to teach traditional team members that search provides incredible insight into customers' behavior and is no longer a direct response medium. There's a massive change going on and at the end of the day, talk always comes around to Google and their "amazing nimbleness."
We as an industry have to evolve past gimicky practices and limited knowledge being a basis for a business. If you can deliver the strategic value of search then you can be well paid for it. What do you DO to earn the money? One of the nice things about agencies, is that there are people who have been in the industry and that's cool to have. When providing search services from inside an agency structure, the clients sign on they want an agency of record and everything kind of gets boiled into that. GroupM Search has kept the relationship direct with clients want integration in a different way, direct. Clients like the checks and balances by the search unit being a "watchdog" to keep their other players. He listed other compelling reason.
Aimee Reker, SVP, Global Director of Search, MRM Worldwide
Do agencies get it Aimee? "We as an agency get it to where our clients they're able to touch all parts of the opportunity." If you've got 250 different brands and products, you've got to really have a relationship with your clients and get them to execute search initiatives. There is "zero problem with senior management not getting search" in her shop. Sites that were not built perfectly are "part of an evolution we're all going through together."
Aimee says that they embed search specialists on every team, but it starts higher up when briefs are created. The search teams work with the designers as they're building out their comps. They work with the technical team on the requirements. It's a little "microcosm of glue," working across the media teams. This helps the search process be "better, brighter" and more effective at the overall agency level. All channels including social media, coding, PPC, SEO is all available to any project. Everybody's part of the "search" effort. We point out to our clients how does search fits in the big picture for your company in a 5 year plan.
MRM Worldwide has full transparency with all their clients. In some places they may not have solutions and bring in other partners. "We are an open agency model" and work with other media shops or other outsourcing when something is slightly out of their expertise.
MRM makes sure to mine compensation for strategic development, as a crucial link in the concept chain. "If you do search well, you spend less, so we have to be paid for strategic development." Also, MRM Worldwide demands relationships with all the other players at the table. "It's just that important."
Marty Weintraub is President of aimClear, a search focused Minnesota advertising agency.