Search Gets Creative

Search is boring. Search is just a bunch of itsy-bitsy text-only ads. Search isn’t graphic.

Know that account guy who’s convinced search plays no part in the creative mix — or in branding? Some finger sandwiches with Mr. Turkeyneck could change his mind.

As snow pelted New York (and, ironically, pink slips rained down on over a thousand Yahooligans), Yahoo hosted its third annual Searchlight Award. The prize honors creativity and innovation in search advertising.

No, that’s not an oxymoron. In addition to creativity, Yahoo’s award honors, in no small part, the role search can play in branding and engagement. As GroupM Interaction Worldwide CEO Rob Norman said in remarks that opened the event, the measure of success is engagement, not the number of units sold online.

Let’s look at how the four major brands that qualified as finalists (together with their agencies) integrated search into highly creative campaigns.

Search Easy

Carat CEO Sarah Fay has been saying recently that search is now a fundamental part of every client campaign, and none more so than Reebok’s Run Easy. The three-month campaign was aimed at casual runners (as opposed to hardcore marathon types). The campaign, which included off- and online elements in major metropolitan markets, included buys of brand and educational keyword groups, as well as many nonbrand terms, such as “running buddies,” “walking partners,” “boston marathon,” “shin splints,” “running map,” and “walking music.” Seventy-six percent of the site visits were generated from 555,000 searches. And 87 percent of those visits occurred thanks to the generic, nonbranded search buys.

Search Delivery

Resolution Media teamed with OMD and Atmosphere BBDO to help FedEx get as much extra mileage as possible out of its stratospheric Super Bowl spend. The shop worked to optimize video and photo assets and bought the most memorable terms from the TV campaign, such as “mr. turkeyneck” and “moon office” to drive traffic to FedEx’s dedicated football site. The spots don’t live there anymore, but Resolution said paid search traffic spiked by a factor of 10 the day after the game, and paid search traffic increased 300 percent overall. It also claims 3 million “extra eyeballs” ended up watching the ads online as a result of the campaign. I’m a tad dubious; do they mean “extra” as in additional views, or were some of these repeat views?

Does it even matter? After all, “mr. turkeyneck” costs 10 cents per click. Compare that with the TV buy, and it’s a no-brainer.

Members Only

American Express’s < a href="">The Members Project offered cardholders the chance to nominate pet causes and determine which would be awarded $5 million. Digital agency of record (AOR) Digitas created the site (now gone). To drive traffic, the TV spot was posted on YouTube, a widget was made available, and the company purchased pretty much every charity- and cause-related keyword group it could think of. Brand-related terms were pretty much eschewed.

In the Spotlight

But keywords and phrases such as “finger sandwiches,” “croquet,” and “topsiders” drove Smirnoff alcopop (define) brands Ice and Raw Tea to take home the Search Spotlight — and this for the company’s first-ever use of search in an ad campaign. “Google wasn’t an option,” noted Outrider’s Chris Copeland, as the search giant doesn’t accept advertising for alcoholic beverages.

The breakout Tea Partay viral video that busted the YouTube charts two days before the site was even launched didn’t hurt, either. Outrider bought branded terms, of course, but nothing generated more traffic (at a lower cost) than the memorable term from the video “finger sandwiches.” In fact, the keyword/phrase cost for the campaign averaged out to about $10 CPM (define) while garnering just under $15 million search impressions in four months’ time.

Nine percent of Smirnoff’s brand site traffic was search generated, not just from video terms but also from buys targeted to summer activities, such as “fourth of july” on Citysearch and keywords and phrases related to an under-the-cap promotion: “mp3 player,” “backstage pass,” “kayaking,” and the like.

Of course, Yahoo’s not being wholly altruistic in underwriting the Search Spotlight Award. It’s trying to open the eyes of advertisers and their agencies to how search, judiciously used, can blow a good advertising campaign wide open.

Know what? It’s right.

Meet Rebecca at SES London February 19-21.

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