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PPC Goes to Cleveland

  |  December 23, 2013   |  Comments

PPC is still the hardest working channel in advertising. Clients get value they can touch, feel, and take to the bank. PPC gets on the plane. It goes to Cleveland.

You've heard of the amplifier that "goes to 11?" PPC is like that, only it "goes to Cleveland."

If you follow the high level chatter in the agency world, you sure hear a lot about brands. Creatives win prestigious lucite trophies for their short movies containing platitudes about life, cute animals selling insurance, and deranged babies invading your mind to supposedly convince you to buy something. (Ironically, cute, laughing babies are outré).

I once wrote about PPC being the hardest working channel in advertising. It is so because it laser-targets the specific intent of specific types of customers when their purchase intent is particularly high. Screw that up, and you're basically refusing truckloads of money that are being wheeled up near the entrance of your premises, but they can't find the correct entrance, and drive off.

Some things never change.

A colleague and I visited a B2B client on-site recently, an impressive lab facility that does mission-critical work for companies of all sizes, as well as government. Indeed, they support sophisticated needs of some of the largest Fortune 500 R&D companies. It's a fascinating sector, growth being assured just as long as the right message is put in front of eager buyers at the right time. Some of those buyers are in a hurry because launches and profits are at stake, to say nothing of the incentive provided by new government regulations and consumer advocacy.

In the unlikely event that tens of thousands of agency creatives are reading this, tens of thousands of eyes are glazing over as we speak.

They're (you're) thinking they'd rather drink paint (that pretty plum colored paint drying on the wall of their nice new office, maybe) than dig into granular behavior data. Thought bubble: "B2B ROI? Please. I wonder if I should have the sushi special today?"

Trade shows, inside sales, content strategy, PPC, email, and analytics. Working in concert, these are the effective means of promotion for the B2B engineering and chemistry company that is fewer than 300 employees in size. And the client hasn't always been very effective in its efforts at the last four. There is a lot of work to do. A lot of data to analyze. And keyword-and-behavior-driven customer intent there for the mining.

And Agency World 1.0 couldn't care less. It won't get on a plane, go to Cleveland, listen to the details about how the products and processes work, how the client's marketing mix is changing, what type of lite competitive analysis might make them more money faster, etc.; certainly not for the types of fees that are typical in digital marketing for the type of marketing and advertising support such clients need.

Many in the agency world would rather take a pass on the needs of the vast majority of the business world, until something a Big Brand needs done meshes with something the agency wants to do with Hootsuite or YouTube. (And to be clear, we don't turn down work that contains "Hootsuite" or "YouTube" in the mandate. But it bugs us when we see an agency partner spending 90 percent of the digital budget on YouTube, because it's a "media buy," by contrast with the keyword-based PPC management, which is, well, work.)

PPC does get on that plane. It does go to Cleveland. It listens deeply to the details, not of fantasy narrative personae, but keyword intent, buy cycles, and the interaction between the organic and inbound efforts and the paid listings on the page. And it puts together killer reports that can even dig into hard-to-attribute success metrics like phone calls.

PPC is still the hardest-working. Those principles will carry over well into other marketing efforts. Clients get value they can touch, feel, and take to the bank. That's why demand for PPC - and "PPC-like" forms of digital marketing -- will continue to be strong. And that's exactly why so many agencies will shun it. Well, not us. We're not afraid of a little hard work.

This crazy Slate column suggests that companies like Google should actually move to Cleveland, because the local amenities and infrastructure are actually more conducive to their operations and human-scale coexistence with their surroundings than is currently the case in San Francisco and the surrounding area. But maybe my point was, in spirit, they're already there.

This column was written from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
Hard-working folks need a rest. All the best to you and your family over the holidays, whatever your IP address.

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Andrew Goodman

Goodman is founder and President of Toronto-based Page Zero Media, a full-service marketing agency founded in 2000. Page Zero focuses on paid search campaigns as well as a variety of custom digital marketing programs. Clients include Direct Energy, Canon, MIT, BLR, and a host of others. He is also co-founder of Traffick.com, an award-winning industry commentary site; author of Winning Results with Google AdWords (McGraw-Hill, 2nd ed., 2008); and frequently quoted in the business press. In recent years he has acted as program chair for the SES Toronto conference and all told, has spoken or moderated at countless SES events since 2002. His spare time eccentricities include rollerblading without kneepads and naming his Japanese maples. Also in his spare time, he co-founded HomeStars, a consumer review site with aspirations to become "the TripAdvisor for home improvement." He lives in Toronto with his wife Carolyn.

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