HOLLYWOOD’S TALKING A LOT ABOUT Google. What else is on
To check the barometer, I sat on a panel at Digital
Hollywood in Santa Monica last week with five other speakers to cover the
most ground I’ve ever seen any panel attempt to navigate: "Broadband
Advertising: The Power Surge — Video, PODs, Social Networks, Links &
Banners — Entertainment, Digital Publishing, Communities and Search Engines
Emergence." We could have talked about immigration rights and Iraqi politics and
it still would have been on-topic.
I was inspired by Aaron Goldman who, at the Search Insider
Summits, has kept a running checklist of the biggest buzzwords from the event
and then shared them during his panel. I thought it would be fun to do that
while on my panel, though it was a bit more challenging to take notes and
participate in the panel at the same time.
I tried keeping tabs of 35 buzzwords, themes, and topics, and I
had no way of noting who said what. While I can’t credit each of them with their
takeaways, I’ll acknowledge en masse the wise coterie who I had the pleasure of
learning from: Disney Online’s Brad Davis, Fuel Industries’ Brady Gilchrist,
McCann WorldGroup’s Marc Ruxin, Advertising.com’s Ben Trenda, Maven Networks’
Nicholas Troiano, and moderator Warren Lee of Canaan Partners.
On to the hottest buzz:
Brands: Branding, protecting brands, and catering to big
brands were at the heart of the discussion. Fittingly, the phrase "direct
response" never came up; this is Hollywood, after all. Brands also tended to
take a beating for how slow they’ve been shifting budgets online, tapping into
emerging media, and getting with this digital age. While it killed the
conversation, I took a moment to applaud brands for how quickly many of them
have been moving when you consider how rapidly everything has been changing.
Not all brands are adapting gracefully; just springing for a fancy
profile on MySpace doesn’t make one a social media marketer by any real measure.
There are also inherent obstacles the clients face internally, such as siloed
approaches to marketing, and some marketers are better at tackling these
challenges than the rest of their peers. As for those silos, Brad Davis of
Disney Online summed it up best: "Welcome to traditional media."
Measurement: Every panelist stressed the importance of
measurement, with some discussing the role of analytics and reporting as part of
that. In fact, measurement was a far more frequent topic of conversation than
targeting, engagement, integration, optimization (by my count, mentions of
measurement outnumbered all those other topics combined). Efficiency and ROI
were also brought up repeatedly. I’m not sure how much of anything new was said
in this regard; generally, remarks stuck to the theme of digital media being
held to a much higher standard than traditional media — and not living up to
While most marketers can improve the way they measure online
media, just as pressing is the need to devise better ways to measure the impact
of online media on offline events. Marketers in Hollywood, for instance, want to
know how much a paid search campaign powers box office performance opening
weekend or first-week DVD sales. For an even better challenge, what about
finding out how much incremental business was spurred by an online ad campaign?
Google: The leading search engine didn’t come out all that
well in Hollywood, mostly due to privacy concerns, especially in light of the
DoubleClick acquisition. Others just feared what Google will do with all its
newfound power. One panelist suggested that as Google’s dominance grows, more
innovation will come from outside of Google, essentially because so many Davids
will want to take a shot right between Googoliath’s eyes (or its os, perhaps).
That’s a great statement for a sound bite, but I wonder how
accurate it is. A single powerful entity clearly helps with marketing; Firefox
is the anti-Internet Explorer, while the Mac is personified as the cooler,
younger, unkempt alternative to the stodgy PC. Still, innovation arises in all
markets when there’s a major market leader, when there are many strong
contenders, and when there’s not a market at all. After all, there was no Google
— no single, dominating search engine — when Google was incorporated in 1998
(in August 1999, Northern Light led with a 16% market share, followed by
AltaVista at 15.5%). Lastly, one shouldn’t easily discount the innovation coming
from Google itself with its recent rollouts such as universal search and
800-GOOG-411 Voice Local Search.
Eight years ago, Google’s market share was under 8%, but those
rags-to-riches stories can only warm your heart in a two-hour movie. Yet Google
got into pole position and stayed there, with no clear competitor in sight for
the immediate future, at least for the core business of search. That defies the
laws of the Hollywood ending. It’s no wonder that, like director Billy Walsh in
Sunday’s season premiere of "Entourage," Hollywood marketers are looking for
someone to write a new third act.