As ad agencies dip a toe into search marketing waters, the search engines want to be there to greet them.
Yahoo’s Overture is expanding its Ambassador reseller program to help the company go beyond its base in the search engine marketing community to reach out to traditional and interactive agencies. Competitor Google is engaged in outreach as well.
While a recent JupiterResearch study found the majority of search marketing, approximately two-thirds, is done in-house, the researchers also found demand for agency involvement is increasing. It’s this involvement the search media players want to encourage.
"So many of these mainstream online agencies -- typical online agencies -- just haven’t really gotten into search yet," said Nate Elliott, an analyst with JupiterResearch. "The little SEM shops have had a free hand, and some of them have gotten pretty big off of that."
More recently, search engines say they have begun seeing more interest from interactive and traditional agencies.
"By including them in the Ambassador program, we’re now beginning to train them more aggressively," said Dan Boberg, director of strategic alliances for Overture. "We are increasing the level of service and training, among other things, that we provide to them. We’re really stepping it up."
Boberg says Overture has conducted a training session for aQuantive’s Avenue A, and plans to launch another for Carat later this month. Google, for its part, has been doing a "road show" of sorts to educate agencies on its offerings. The effort was begun last year and has continued in 2004.
"This year, we rolled it out fully," said Penry Price, Eastern sales director at Google. "We are fully committed to it from here on out. It’s very important that the agencies understand what we offer. We want to work with the agencies because we know how important they are to the marketers."
Overture has made its outreach part of its formal Ambassador program, founded in 2001, which still mostly counts search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) companies among its participants.
The Ambassador program, geared toward those spending over $20,000 monthly on behalf of their clients, gives members higher levels of sales and account management support. Overture also provides sales collateral and free custom proposals, along with training programs on products, sales, account management and optimization. Overture now has Ambassador programs for its paid placement product, Precision Match, as well as for Local Match (local), Site Match (paid inclusion) and Performance Marketing (software).
Google doesn’t have a formal program in place, but Price describes the company’s effort as "a commitment and a day-to-day working relationship" with agencies. Price says the company has been going to agencies or hosting gatherings at its offices around the country.
"It’s a full-scale production," said Google’s Price, all of it aimed at educating agencies about search marketing benefits, and mechanics. "It’s a little different than what people have done in the past," he added.
Jupiter’s Elliott compares the process to what went on in the early days of interactive marketing, when the big portals first went directly to marketers before beginning to court agencies.
"What they are trying to do is drive more spend," said Elliott. "This isn’t fun work. This is missionary work. You don’t directly profit from missionary work, but as a leader in the industry, it can only benefit you in the long run."
Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
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