NEW YORK While search marketing was once dismissed as the ValPak of the Internet, Wieden + Kennedy wants to bring it into the creative process.
The independent agency has hired its first director of search, Ogilvy and Carat Fusion veteran Jason Clement, in order to develop search beyond its direct response roots in brand building.
"We're getting invested in this because we think creativity in search is an area that hasn't been exploited at all," said Renny Gleeson, global director of digital strategies for Wieden in Portland, Ore. "It's a sad reflection of people's inability to get over the fact that it has long since graduated from being a DR tool."
Nokia is the first client Clement will work on at Wieden's New York office.
Gleeson, who came to Wieden in November 2006 from Carat Fusion to lead its digital strategy, said Clement would lead a small team that would embed search at the start of the creative development. Gleeson sees search being used not just to translate ideas into keyword lists and tagging, but also to come up with creative strategies. For instance, search trends give clues to customer behavior that can be mined for strategic insights.
What's more, search is morphing from a keyword-driven tool that returns a set of links to new areas like "semantic search" and results pages filled with several forms of media. And the search interface is moving from the computer to other screens, including TV and mobile.
"I think search is going through fundamental changes to what it is and how important it is," Gleaeon said.
While Wieden sees the importance of search in a world where "googling" is a verb, it does not aspire to compete with search marketing specialists. It plans to work with clients' existing search marketing agencies on execution, Gleeson said. It is similar to its approach in other areas of interactive, where for the most part Wieden has chosen not to have deep technology expertise in-house or set aside in a department.
"We've made that jump where interactive isn't a department but a mind-set," Gleeson said.
Wieden is not the only creative-focused agency to zero in on search. Crispin Porter + Bogusky, for instance, has hired Web analytics search experts to make sure consumers are able to find it work.
Clement, 28, comes to Wieden from WPP Group's Neo@Ogilvy, where he was a senior partner in its search unit. Prior to that, he worked at Carat Fusion and search agency iCrossing.
"He knows the nuts and bolts," said Gleeson. "You can get him in a room of search wonks and he can more than represent. Beyond that, he's a good strategist and creative thinker."