Wednesday, March 07, 2007

French SEM Competition: The Trojan Horse

Today I was at Ad:Tech Paris where we had a stand and presented on keyword management. A recent Belgian-born London hire came with me for the trip and did the majority of booth duty.

And then something completely outrageous happened.

As I was walking by our booth with a guy I'm considering hiring to start our French sales efforts, I noticed two men sitting at the booth with my Belgian colleague; nice, I thought - a potential client interested enough to want to sit down and learn more.

Then the French sales candidate I was with says to me "Chris, do you know who that man is? He's the [Greek origin] CEO of eSearchVision, the #1 SEM in France."

Oh s#^t, I think to myself. So here's this guy claiming to be an advertiser interested in working with Efficient Frontier and who's really a competitor trying to figure out how we pitch and what we do. The guy does run an insurance website as a side project and for which he probably spends a few Euros here and there, but I doubt that's the reason he was pretty much asking my colleague to write down EF's secret mathematical sauce on a napkin, so to speak.

Unable to contain myself, I interrupted their conversation and asked these fine gentlemen if they would mind signing an NDA before continuing our discussions, at which point they looked like they'd just been caught cheating (they had).

Said CEO then told me that was unreasonable and they could just as well go talk to another SEM, at which point I responded by asking if one of them were with eSearchVision by chance. Proving once again that lies are like quicksand, the other guy said "eSearchVision, hmmmm, I don't know them. Aren't they based in London?"

CZ: "No, they're headquartered in Paris and will apparently be our biggest competition in Europe" [Due to their market lead, NOT technology or capabilities I might add]

At that point they looked ahead into space, then at each other, then got up and walked away silently.

Many of you have said in the past that you like hearing about what goes on in the SEM marketplace & including from a competitive standpoint, hence me taking the time write this down. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

When an SEM's leader has sufficiently little guts to do such a thing, how can you possibly count on him to manage your search spend?


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