The last year has seen enormous pressure on the advertising business as we know it. Beyond all the well-documented ills that have troubled the sector, an additional staple of the way media has been planned and bought is seeing its popularity come to a crashing halt. And that hallmark is the use of 'perceptions' and 'panels' to drive decisions.
In a digital age, guessing what people think about your business and validating it in test settings is an outdated concept. There was a time when the speed by which media was produced and disseminated would allow for the assurances that come with the model of targeting large swaths of the public through small segment tests. Unfortunately for some, and opportunistically for others, that time is ending.
In no better way does this show itself than the emergence in the past 10 years of Google, and in the past 12 months the emergence of Twitter. In today's social and search marketplace, there is a unique opportunity to use intent for insights instead of perceptions and panels for planning. Allow me to demonstrate how any business can use these insights from search and social to redefine its approach to broader media application.
Today, there are millions of advertisers on Google. Each business advertises off a list of keywords which range from brand-specific terms to more general "long-tail" keywords focused on their category and specific identifiers of their business. This set of keywords is the basis for every advertiser's database of intentions. Google, as first declared by John Battelle, is the purveyor of the database of intentions where a deep understanding of those who raise their hand is stored. These hand raisers shift advertising from perceptions about segments to expressed intent. This shift opens up a world of opportunity for marketers. Suddenly, they know what people are seeking out.
And for several years, this was the promise of hand raisers that existed for marketers. Understanding what they associate with a brand and what motivates them to act upon their personal expression of intent was a vast step forward. Now comes the second piece of the equation, which moves us to a truly insightful place. With the mass adoption of social media, we now can not only understand when people express intent in search, but get much closer to understanding why they have expressed that intent.
Companies are now starting to take their search keyword listings and push them into social media monitoring tools such as truCAST, Cymfony and Radian6. Usage of these tools begins the creation of a closed loop of insights where terms that brands associate with themselves can be monitored. This monitoring spawns learnings about consumers, their motivations and the feelings they associate with that brand. In some cases, this becomes further intelligence that can shape a marketer's advertising.
If the brand has strong association with specific features and benefits, then a shift in other marketing can be made. For example, if a car brand is perceived to be strong on safety, then a shift in their messaging in paid search and buying more terms or share of voice against that may be a valuable strategy adjustment. There is also the alternate issue which is in areas where a brand has little awareness as determined through social monitoring, and a chance may exist to buy advertising, specifically paid search, where that can be addressed. In cases of crisis and reputation management, this becomes essential for advertisers.
What ultimately happens is a new model where intent facilitates insights emerges and the old model of perception and panels can no longer compete. Advertisers now know not only what people are raising their hands for, but what motivates that to happen and how consumers associate with a brand in those areas. This makes for more intelligent and potentially impactful advertising, which above all, makes the evolution of understanding consumers a key to the future of advertising and works us back from the depths we have seen in the past year.
Chris Copeland is CEO of GroupM Search for the Americas. Chris can be reached at chris.copeland@groupm. You can also follow Chris on Twitter @SearchBoss.
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