Google Courts Entertainment Marketers

Google has started displaying film reviews and local show times above the organic results on movie-related searches. For marketers, the feature is both exciting and alarming.

By searching on a movie’s name, users can obtain film information, reviews, and local show times for specific titles. Organic listings appear below those results, and sponsored listings run as usual in the right column. Entering “movie:” or “showtimes:” before a movie name causes a larger number of results to appear alone, without additional organic listings.

Google execs believe the feature will ultimately result in more keyword bidding from entertainment marketers. These advertisers, it said, have been historically reticent to engage in much search marketing.

“We’ll expect more traffic flow overall in movie names,” said Marissa Mayer, Google’s director of consumer Web products. She said increased inventory will increase bidding. “We’re basically creating a new market for AdWords.”

If entertainment marketers do decide to up their bidding, it may be a defensive — rather than an offensive — move. One agency exec with concerns is Ian Schafer, president of Deep Focus, whose clients include MGM and Moviefone. Schafer noted the movie search results push organic listings further down the page. These listings include official movie sites, which he believes are often what searchers are after anyway.

“If I’m a movie studio, I’d want the official movie Web site to come up as a result,” said Schafer. “And I wouldn’t want to pay for that. It makes me nervous that they’re trying to be too much to everybody.”

While he describes it as “a noble effort, and perhaps the start of something very interesting,” Schafer worries Google is marring its famous simplicity with clutter on the results page.

“If someone’s looking for a movie on Google, they might not want to see show times,” he said. “There should be a line of links: official site, reviews, show times.”

The movie search capabilities go beyond just searching on film titles. Even if someone doesn’t know the exact name of a movie they wish to find, typing keywords related to a plot element or actor will turn up results. For example, “Ben Stiller hair gel” returns “There’s Something About Mary,” a movie with a notorious scene featuring those details.

In addition to film studios, Google expects marketing interest from video and DVD distribution companies such as Netflix, Blockbuster Online and Amazon.com. Ditto for the marketers of celebrity wallpaper, mobile ringtones and other merchandise.

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