ORLANDO, FLA. Paid search has a place -- and a potentially lucrative one -- for advertisers, said Amanda Richman, svp, digital group client director at MediaVest, today at the American Association of Advertising Agencies' Media Conference and Trade Show in Orlando, Fla.
"Search has been [existing] in a digital silo, but has now spread to other pieces of the business," said Richman.
U.S. search ad spending is expected to rise 32 percent this year to $15.5 billion, according to J.P. Morgan Chase.
She offered case studies of some of MediaVest's clients to support her claim. Wal-Mart, for example, experienced solid online sales this past holiday season. One of the main reasons was the synergy between traditional television, which assisted in driving traffic to the Web, and paid search -- a point Richman made because the two have not necessarily been strong partners in the past.
Richman said search "delivered on the ['Save more, live better'] tagline." Wal-Mart's on-air spots focused on product quality and provided information on where to shop online. This led to sales, she said, and is a direct correlation of paid search to the advertiser's return on investment.
A key element is buying search terms that align closely to sales data. "You have to have a strategy where you can [envision] the payoff," said Richman.
Jonathan Ragale, COO of 360i, a strategic digital advisor, also presented a case study: NBC's Heroes and how his company devised a plan to maintain buzz while the show went on hiatus. "Search was an integral component," he emphasized.
Ragale said 360i used a variety of tactics, including a viral word-of-mouth campaign. This involved reaching out to the blogging community to retain an ongoing dialogue about the show. The company also launched a mass display campaign to drive tune-ins a few days prior to the show's return to TV. "We got very creative with the tune-in messaging," he added, providing viewers with interesting character factoids and back-story that could be found online.
360i also continued to leverage the selected key words for the release of the show's DVDs; it still uses the same terms for the Web site. For advertisers, Ragale's main point was: "Ads drive awareness, engagement and tune-in." Because of 360i's wide-reaching campaign, he said tune-ins increased by 60 percent.
MediaVest's Richman pointed to content as a powerful tool in contributing to the success of paid search. This could involve using platforms like TV, print and out of home, she said. "Think of how you can create it if you don't have it or [bring in a] partner to get it," said Richman.
"Search has established a permanent residence, but its full potential has yet to be realized," she said.