Search: So Easy A Caveman Can Comment On It
Earlier today the Wall St Journal reported that the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has written the DOJ opposing Yahoo's plan to outsource paid search to Google starting in October. In an interview, Bob Liodice, chief executive of the ANA, said the group believes the "deal is, on balance, a negative" for advertisers.
I don't know if the ANA's proclamation had anything to do with the ~$25 drop in Google's stock price today, but I've gotta believe it did to some degree, which set my wheels turning.
What is the ANA?
Who is in the ANA?
Who within the ANA handles Internet-related issues?
It turns out that the ANA has a Digital Marketing Committee that incidentally meets this Wednesday 9:30am-2:30pm in NYC; if in NYC, you might want to attend as I'm sure this'll be the evening's main topic when open discussion starts at 12:30pm.
More interesting, though, is the composition of that committee. Looking at a list of the 150+ committee members, two things jump out at me:
1) It's a list of large traditional advertisers - Burger King, Mars Bar, Kraft, Campbell Soup and Coors to name a few - precisely the type of advertisers that have been slow to understand, adopt and fully participate in paid search;
2) Microsoft has three people on the committee, while Google and Yahoo have... zero.
So what you have, then, is a group of Fortune 1000 advertisers whose search spend is most likely drawfed by Google's top 1000 advertisers, coming together to worry about the Google/Yahoo ad pact and then the financial press commenting on it to great effect. Hmmm, I wonder if Microsoft had anything to do with that?
Meanwhile, companies like Expedia, Amazon, MoneySuperMarket, Recruit and agencies such as WPP, Dentsu, Omnicom and Interpublic are busy as hell building out their SEM-based businesses, all trying to use search for all it's worth. You don't hear those companies complaining about the ad pact nearly as much, probably because they know that Google is already a monopoly, and that properly managed, Google AdWords is the best marketing system ever.
If the ANA committee updated its digital committee to reflect the primacy of search in online marketing, they probably wouldn't have come out against the ad pact. Savvy search marketers know a few things the ANA doesn't:
1) Search is still deserving of more ad $$ than it gets, and were there more search engines to buy on that would only slow the transfer of offline dollars into search;
2) Google's system is light years more advertiser-friendly than Yahoo's or Microsoft's, and has won because it's better. Part of the reason Yahoo's outsourcing to Google is Yahoo's realized it's in advertisers' interest to have Google features such as one interface for multiple countries available to advertisers;
3) While recent moves like Automatic Match, Page 1 Min Bids and Google Suggest are worrisome in their potential impact on advertiser ROI, they all are dependent on an auction marketplace for search that coaxes money out of advertisers & agencies rather than unilaterally demanding it.