Ah, the Display Lumascape. While I’m not an expert in Slideshare, I’m pretty sure that no other ad-tech related slide has received close to the amount of views as Terry Kawaja’s ubiquitous representation of the digital ad industry.
But despite how helpful and how many views the Display Lumascape has received, few people seem aware of the existence of Terry’s other fine piece of work: the Search Lumascape.
As separate entities, the Search and Display Lumascapes are explanations of two distinct industries with different types of media channels and varying companies.
However, a good amount of insight can be gleaned by taking a look at them side-by-side. On the Display Lumascape, there are nearly double the number of companies between the buyer and the seller, compared to the Search Lumascape.
So why is the SEM industry relatively simpler than the display industry? Why is the path from marketer to consumer so much quicker for search than it is for display? Why are there arrows zigzagging on the display side, but on the search side all arrows are leading to the right?
Two major thoughts come to mind:
1. There is no à la carte targeting data in SEM
Before you reach for your pitchfork and lantern, let me explain. There is a wealth of data that can be acted upon when running a SEM campaign. The big difference between search and display is that with search, data sits with the search provider – whereas in display, data can sit with the publisher, a third party aggregator, an ad network or many other ad tech entities.
A large portion of the Display Lumascape is based on the use of third party data (e.g. retargeting, data suppliers, DMP’s and data aggregators, publisher tools, sharing data and perhaps even the entire ad network space) – indicating a fundamental difference in the way that digital display is served and used for ad campaigns.
Today, more so than ever before, brands are focusing on audience segments by leveraging data through third parties.
For example, pretend that I’d like to show an ad to users who are 18-34 years old (segment #1) who have browsed sites that demonstrate an interest in cars (segment #2), and who have recently purchased tires (segment #3) and are currently on a brand-safe site (segment #4).
The result is that in addition to my contracted media source, I will also need to contract with four separate data providers. While DSP’s help to alleviate this complexity, there is still a plethora of data providers that can be involved in any campaign.
In search, all of the targeting that’s being done is at the pleasure of the engine that you’re using. If you don’t like Google’s demographic targeting methodology and wish to bring a third party segment to the table, you’re simply out of luck.
The big three make data available for search engine advertising, but it’s not possible to use third party cookie segments to further refine your SEM campaign.
2. Display is not catered to the long tail
As everyone knows by now, Google has made billions of dollars catering to the long tail by building an easy-to-use interface with simple-to-understand measurements – which in turn has resulted in small-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) flocking to them.
While mom and pop shops were launching basic SEM campaigns and subsequently hiring search agencies to handle the more complicated buys, the display folks were targeting the big brands.
In the early days of the banner, display was seen as primarily a branding play. Since SMBs don’t care as much about branding, they were naturally drawn to search as opposed to display. And as display evolved, third party data was incorporated into media buying and optimization techniques matured.
As a result, display began to be viewed as a viable medium for direct response, but it still has a long way to go before it capitalizes on the long tail.
The Display Lumascape shows its true colors in that unlike the simplicity of the Search Lumascape, there are a lot of variables that sit between a buyer and a seller – attribution, standards, creative capabilities, channel integration, the sharing of data, media buying, etc. Each of these components represent companies and the various business models participating in the value chain.
Agencies, SMBs and large brands all know that display requires a multitude of relationships between the buyer and seller, while search is more simplistic and carries fewer, more direct relationships.
My prediction: Over time, display will begin to mirror search as self-service will become more prevalent – and search will become more similar to display by allowing advertisers to target third party data.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.