MEET THE NEW SEARCH - Adam Chandler

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The latest wave of tech advancement will make online display the most powerful magnet in a marketer's attraction portfolio.

If you're betting on Internet futures, make sure your money's on the underdog. I'm talking about display advertising. The IAB 2010 report showed display growing more than twice as fast as search, and now only 20% smaller ($10BB vs. $12BB). Thanks to tech advancement display may be just hitting full stride.

Display is the new search. For some this has been obvious. Think about it. Search accelerated early on as the most accountable lever for specific consumer actions—from site visits to store visits, from online purchases to land purchases. Search became the one vehicle for marketers of all shapes and sizes to eek out a demonstrable ROI from advertising. Search captured the hearts and headlines of our business. In the process, the brand to direct response ratio found in overall media, turned upside down. The significance and scale of search has led to the online DR cesspool we all wade through today.

Two years ago, display could not provide anywhere close to the level of feedback that search conditioned marketers to expect. Today, that's a different story. It's happening fast, organically and incrementally. So don't kick yourself if you haven't really noticed.

The open API world of online media has been responsible for hundreds of companies springing up to fill voids between marketers and publishers. With the emergence of performance display, search marketers have started to feel more comfortable with display. Not to mention, many of the ROI performance driven metrics historically found in search in the past, have made their way into the display landscape. DSPs, DMPs, exchanges, networks, audience buying platforms, advanced data segmentation targeting, private exchanges, real-time bidding— are all outcomes of creating a more efficient display marketplace.

Before the advent of automated platforms as a piece of the digital mix, fragmentation of the display market was daunting to many marketers. Those that needed the comfort of automation with accountability have grown the market considerably over the past two years.

For the majority of brand stewards within major advertisers, though, contextual accountability is the real issue. They need methods and metrics for generating emotional impact within brand-safe venues —consciously, systematically, and repeatedly—before they'll move big chunks of TV dollars into digital. Just last week, an agency director put it this way: 'When someone makes a case for the efficiency and power of online marketing, our client's CEO says 'Well, what was the last online ad you remembered?'

TV has owned brand awareness, imaging, and intent—the so-called top of the funnel metrics—for decades. Digital has come a long way toward matching sight, sound, and motion through rich media; and new targeting and tracking capabilities promise to put digital display on the highest level of all media options. The father of audience targeting for digital—Usama Fayyad, who created Audience Science and Yahoo! Research Labs—is now developing a platform for branded response measurement. He's doing it for my company (Martini Media) initially, but like every other advancement in digital marketing and media, it will become a standard.

Branded response will provide marketers the opportunity to simultaneously measure, test, and adapt brand strategy and execution in real time. The dashboard made possible combines mid- to top-funnel analytics on brand effect with lower-funnel metrics or CPW (cost per whatever).

For example, automakers routinely track website traffic, make-and-model views, configurations, dealer searches, and display clicks—all mechanical metrics that represent a statistically insignificant sample for brand metrics. They also measure the brand effect of their online investment by survey-based pre/post research.

Today, two different groups use these bottom- and mid-funnel metrics; and they only collaborate after the campaign is over. Very soon, everyone will be looking at real time data on the effect of all advertising on each brand objective. So an automaker, or any other marketer, can achieve emotional connection in the moment, across all online display media reliably, consistently and measurably.

So marketers will no longer feel compelled to spend the most on what consumers do the least (Search accounts for less than 5% of a consumer's online activity). The quantum opportunity at hand can put the message where people's minds are, and prove it.

Adam Chandler (adam@martini-corp.com) is Chief Revenue Officer of Martini Media, a network of more than 1,200 enthusiast websites, reaching 65 million affluent adults ($100K+) in the U.S. and abroad.

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