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Fixing The Agency Disconnect Between Search & Display Buyers

It is my sincere hope that at some point during the holiday season, the people who work on search at various digital agencies have had an opportunity to meet the people who work on display ads. Because the likelihood is, whether it was at the company holiday party or even over fruitcake and eggnog at the coffee machine, they haven’t worked together much. Therein lies the main challenge for the digital teams in 2012.

In my experience there are digital agencies that have excellent, skilled people working on search. Somewhere in close proximity there is an excellent, skilled colleague or even a whole team working on display. Each has useful and plentiful data. Each buys performance-based media. This data possessed by the search team can help target display ads. Likewise, the data possessed by the display team… You get the picture.

My point here is that display and search have found a very profitable intersection, but to capitalize on the opportunity, these two teams need a stronger connection. Unlike traditional media such as TV and billboards, which are clearly used for brand awareness, digital channels have more crossovers between awareness and direct response (DR) strategies.

Data Sharing Can Drive Search & Display Strategies

Display and search - are search marketers becoming the new media planners

Display & search – Are search marketers becoming the new media planners?- Image by Chango

Today, with the copious amounts of data and inventory available in digital channels, there is more opportunity for digital strategies to be part of both the DR and branding camps.

In fact, search agencies have an excellent opportunity to expand their overall presence by combining search and display data. The underlying problem is the complete independence of the two functions within their walls, when they should be interdependent.

This interdependence will take some commitment at the C-level.

If they can get display and search teams working together, search agencies can influence “early funnel” purchase decisions. Data can inform creative. That way, a brand can hit different potential customers with different messages depending on their online behavior and stated preferences.

Additionally, by working more closely with display folks, search teams can expand their SEM campaigns, allowing them to increase scale and achieve more effective pricing by utilizing search data alongside display inventory.

Search Retargeting Brings Both Sides Together

Today, display budgets are rising faster than search budgets. There’s a good reason for that. The dynamic creative technology described above makes display easier to optimize and still far less expensive  than the other 2012 hot spot, online video.

Search retargeting campaigns will be the intersection of the two. Search retargeting established itself as a display medium in 2011. It will prove to be the best intent-based media in 2012.

Get these two functions and teams working together and media plans will be tighter. A good media plan is not a boilerplate. There are multiple line items on any given media plan from search, display, retargeting, mobile and more.

However, if one channel works well, should you be buying on another?

For example, if search is giving off strong results, should you be utilizing digital display at all? And, if you are deploying a digital display strategy, where should you buy it? It has become more critical than ever to truly understand the foundation of all ad campaigns, the media plan.

In 2012, as brand awareness and direct response channels become blurred, agencies will become more interdependent. I predict that as technology gets smarter, so will agencies in the way that they strategically plan their clients’ budgets.

So enjoy the holidays, but make a New Year’s resolution to knock down the walls that separate your search and display teams. Chances are you’ll get the gift of better performance all year through.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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