I had the honor of being a panelist for the 2nd (now) Annual Yahoo! Searchlight Awards. Also on the panel were Brad Berens, iMedia Communications; Jon Fine, BusinessWeek and Brian Morrissey, AdWeek. The four finalists were:
- Sprint-Talladega Nights, presented by NeoSearch
- Special K, presented by Starcom
- Lexus All-new LS Launch, presented by TeamOne
- Chase Freedom, presented by Avenue A Razorfish
All four agencies presented campaigns that contained elements of traditional media, online display advertising and search. Chase/Avenue A was the winner, mainly because their discussion of search was the most complete and compelling — with the most granular information about the performance of the campaign in search.
The most impressive overall campaigns were Special K and Lexus. The Special K campaign in particular impressed me because it was massive and totally integrated: outdoor, print, TV, online rich media and video, search and (perhaps most interestingly) social media through Yahoo! Groups. The Lexus campaign for the new LS (“the car that parks itself”) also had some great online video and use of rich media.
The aim of Searchlight is to educate ad agencies about search and how to use it in their campaigns; it’s really a seminar on best practices with integrated campaigns. And it’s amazing how quickly traditional agencies have gotten more sophisticated about search and online marketing more generally. The number of entrants to the Award was also triple what Yahoo! had received last year, organizer Ron Belanger told me.
Search is a fascinating medium like almost no other because it’s so dynamic and, literally, interactive — the consumer is telling marketers what he or she is presumably interested in. That’s not always clear of course (from queries) but it’s almost unique as an ad medium in its ability to capture consumer intent.
There are still many people (and larger companies) who consider search to be exclusively a direct response medium. At the so-called “tail” (and part of the “fat middle”) it is. But otherwise it’s a branding medium. And if someone held a gun to my head and said, “pick one: branding or DR” I’d pick branding.
The Avenue A guys (who also presented last year) did a terrific job in their explanation of the process of how they sold the client, Chase, on spending more on “generic” search terms that were expensive (i.e., “Credit Card”) as part of a branding strategy. (A DR mindset wouldn’t justify the spend because the ROI wasn’t there in terms of customer acquisitions.) And they did a study with Yahoo! to back up their branding position, which was supported by data showing consumer recall and brand lift.
It was a terrific event and very eye opening for everyone involved.