Friday, April 13, 2007

Is Search Media Buying (and SEO) Revolutionary?

I saw a recent article that discussed the changes than SEO is bringing to way media is planned and purchased. There is a bit of a dichotomy here - a seeming conflict about whether there is a an evolution or revolution occuring. On one hand, search (has anyone notices that "search" has become a noun??) changes the dynamics of the media environment for advertisers. The key is that the media can now anticipate the interest of a consumer and place the ad at the most opportune moment based on behavior (as the writer of the article, Chris Copeland of Outrider said, "seeing the field before we act"). It is revolutionary. At the same time, it is really only an evolution of the same predictive intent that media buyers have pursued for generations. Advertising in the World Series issue of Sports Illustrated because the content attracts male consumers 18-34 (or whatever) based on readership surveys and subscription data is just a more primitive attempt to anticipate reader inclination to accept and notice a Ford truck/Miller beer/Gillette razor ad. This more primitive model has been the model for over 50 years and is still controls the process for 95%+ of all media buying.

The search model would seem to be a more precise, more responsive method of anticipating the intent of the user. Evolutionary for certain, better for certain, but I wonder about whether it is revolutionary. The revolution will occur when the degree of predictiveness that can occur with online search is truly leveraged over into other media vehicles. (For example, when tv allows the advertisier to deliver custom spots into households based on the household demographics and which member of the household is watching a particular program. Cable is certainly moving in this direction.)

One final thought. The art and science of the search experts needs to be packaged and communicated to the marketers of brands in a way that takes the process out of the "black box" perception. The more the client marketer understands how search works and how it helps, the more they will be willing to invest, experiment and learn. Ask any traditional media planner/buyer and they will tell you that the best clients are those who truly understand the media planning buying processes and can work together with them to create great media solutions. Search (as a Noun) is still in its infancy relative to a marketers real understanding of the process and potential benefits.

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