Q&A – Google, Yahoo, MSN – Engine Roundtable – 360i Summit

The Search Engine Roundtable was so meaty, and perhaps the most of interest to blog readers who may clamor on the engines’ every word, that I broke it up into four posts. Here’s Part IV of IV.

The first question Roger asked was a great one. He wondered how the engines view auction-based media – namely the shift of the auction model from solely search ads and other display media to any type of media, online and off. Stacey described MSN’s take as “feeling out the market.” Google ate it up, with Theo noting that Google’s really, really interested in expanding the auction-based model.” Google Audio is part of that, as it starts brokering ads. He said Google’s very bullish on it. He also notes that human negotiation – those off-ratecard deals, aren’t a factor in auction-based media, which some skeptics cite as a fatal flaw of the concept, but Google embraces as bringing greater efficiency and equity to the marketplace.

In answering Roger’s next question (about opportunities for marketers), Theo from Google cited an interesting stat he just came across: Three years ago 50% of site visits were achieved across 2,800 sites. Now 50% of site visits are going across 7,500 sites. Fragmentation’s happening online too, not just with traditional media. Divergence over convergence (Al & Laura Ries, and Christina Kerley, are you reading this?)

MSN then touted its demographic targeting with search as a great vehicle that’s ripe for marketers to test out. Yahoo! looked at cross-media measurement, such as determining how TV campaigns are affecting search campaigns. Yahoo! also touted how it’s focused on measuring the nature of the assist – not just the keywords normally credited with conversions. (360i has released a few research reports on the subject.) The challenge, Cote noted, was determining how to credit assists when the conversion happens offline. That’s one of those interactive marketing holy grails.

Kevin McCutcheon from 360i then asked about how community marketing and social media have changed how brands are built. Yahoo!’s Cote said the old models aren’t dead, but they are changing significantly. Young people especially are most radically redefining how they connect with brands. Additionally, marketers need to spend more time thinking about influencing consumers rather than controlling them.

Stacey cited an example that it’s about reaching the one person who has 8,000 people on their buddy list (which would be really fascinating – targeting ads differently based on their number of contacts… is anyone using such a model? Prediction: if no one is now, someone will try this very soon.)

Theo from Google said that along with the consumer factors, there’s the challenge that competitors may position you in a certain way. “If you’re not in it, your competition will be there, and they will be able to capitalize.”

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