Live from #SMX East 2014 – Ad Agencies and SEM

By Tad Miller | Oct 1, 2014
More Articles by Tad


Ad Agencies and SEM is a Powerpoint-free panel discussion with Jason Hartley (@360i), Group Media Director and Search Marketing Practice Lead of 360i; Jonathan Kagan (@jonkagan), Sr. Director of Search and Biddable Media at Results Digital; Chris Penn (@cspenn), VP of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications; and Hamid Saify (@hamidsaify), Vice President of Search Marketing and Auction Media at Deutsch LA.  Ginny Marvin from Search Engine Land is the Moderator.

It’s supposed to “discuss the challenges and opportunities unique to running SEM in an ad agency, including client and inter-agency communication, training and recruitment, winning support for and managing paid search campaigns in an integrated fashion, running performance and brand campaigns and more.”

Ad Agencies & SEM

Blogging a free-form panel discussion is hard, so I’m going to attempt to just put the points that each person made “Live Tweet-Style.”

Jason Hartley:

  • We view search less as an ROI driver and more as something that brings the customer to the buying journey.
  • You need to show the direct line of how search is making a company money.  We need to dream bigger about search.
  • People still don’t know who we are.  We are getting in the beginning conversations more now.  It’s getting there.
  • You have to go to the brand people’s hearts a little bit and talk about brand equity with search to marketing executives (they can’t use the search lexicon to understand things).
  • Data visualizations are huge with CMOs in winning budgets.
  • The more tech-savvy CMO is a boon to search marketers.  The conversations are different once they get new data tools.
  • We emphasize the quality traffic over the traffic volume number.
  • We still take a chance on hiring talented people that we can train and educate when we hire.
  • You have to build teams of data nerds and marketing minds with a manager that can blend talents together.
  • We have paid search people that also do paid social – especially if ROI is expected from paid social (remarketing is a chain that links them).
  • The blend between paid search and social is becoming seamless  – there’s a need for budget flexibility between channels.
  • Multi-channel engagement is really just Digital to CMOs.

Jonathan Kagan:

  • No one knew what search was 10 years ago in agencies.  It gets big budgets now because of last click attribution.  We think search is a confirmation tool that other marketing is working.
  • Search isn’t a first step branding tool.  But it needs to be – search needs a seat at the table.
  • Collaboration isn’t always there with secondary agencies.  People think that search is the IT team.
  • We win budget by telling “horror stories” on budget needs to have this or results go downhill.
  • CMOs don’t have time to be educated – go with the subordinate that they listen to.
  • We separate metrics between desktop, tablet and mobile whenever we can.
  • We look at brand traffic growth usually when we look for growth metrics.
  • Hiring talent depends on geography.  New York city we can poach competitors for the best and brightest.
  • We don’t let our interns choose.  We make them work in search too.
  • We go after analytics people when search talent is low in an area.
  • A lot of great search marketers are not great marketers.  They need to know how to “talk” marketing.  You have to educate them beyond being search nerds.
  • Search people are eventually going to have to be client-facing, and we have had talented people that can’t do that walk away.
  • Paid search teams are running paid social teams more and more.

Chris Penn:

  • In PR, Search is given first touch attribution, but it’s not (I’m assuming he thinks PR is driving it).
  • People think SEM is direct response advertising.  We tell them it’s like selling apple pie.  The role of search marketing is to grow the audience.  We have to explain what we do (search) better to get a seat at the table.
  • We tell our clients to measure what they are in control of.
  • Search is “mental retargeting” and we try to explain it that way to marketing executives.  The brand experience is the connection that brings them to search.
  • CMOs are now spending more on IT than CTOs are right now.
  • Getting people to become data visualizers is a big challenge right now – it makes CMOs more responsive.
  • Publishers really care just about eyeballs.
  • I can teach people to “cook” when we hire them.  But, I have to borrow the executive chef for strategy – or hire the best and brightest.
  • You can find “personality types” of people that will be good at search.
  • The Strengths Finder test is good for finding personality types good for search marketing.
  • Finding both marketing and analytical people (both-brained) is super rare right now.
  • The data side of marketing is 80/20 men.  PR is the exact opposite.
  • Marketing technology handles paid social at our company.
  • Mobile is the digital glue that holds digital marketing together.

Hamid Saify:

  • People understand how search works in agencies better now than they did in 2010.  Search is getting in creative briefs earlier than it ever has before.  It’s still hard because people love social and warm and fuzzy creative.
  • Search is about going to clients and telling them about the new chances that it brings – it’s not just the lower funnel.
  • In the agency world, sometimes people don’t want to hear what’s producing because decisions are often budget-driven and not metric-driven.
  • Deutsch gave training to everyone at the agency about search and that helped a lot in terms in getting a seat at the table.
  • You need to lay out things long term with marketing executives (brand impression is part of that conversation). It needs to be visceral and human and not just data-based metrics.
  • There’s no shortage of talent in LA.  We look to find the best and brightest.  We still train though. We want people who can own the room from a speaking standpoint.
  • None of our interns want to work in search.  They all want to work in creative.
  • Search has influenced more of media than any channel ever.  We need to think of ourselves as more than data nerds.
  • Paid search is running paid social at Deutsch.
  • 80% of clients give us a budget number and we allocate between search and social channels.
  • Marketer turnover at some companies is constant.  There’s a need for institutional transfer knowledge.
  • You need people that understand marketing.
  • Search can influence product development, we did it with HTC on showing demand for different-colored phones.
  • Finding a full-service shop is hard. Agencies want to make wholesale changes to things that work and blow things up.  It needs to be more slow and incremental change.

Ad Agencies Panel

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