If you have attended a digital conferences in the region in the past couple of years, chances are you will have heard search and media personnel complaining that creatives ‘just don’t get’ what they do, and that they don’t utilise the insights gleaned from search and performance marketing.
“I think the two camps simply start from a different place when it comes to digital content,” says iProspect global president Ben Wood.
He explains that search and performance agencies tend to start with business and campaign objectives that define content by which strategy is likely to drive the best yield, while creative agencies tend to start with the consumer and consumer motivation. “Obviously, the real winners are those that can combine great consumer insight with an analytical focus on outputs to allow for ongoing optimisation and improvement,” says Wood.
And perhaps a tipping point has been reached — there is an emerging trend for creatives and copywriters to work much closer together within these digital teams. Indeed, iProspect has started to embed creative teams at its heart in a bid to more effectively target consumers, while Neo@Ogilvy work in bespoke teams that pull together talent from the creative side of the agency.
Chris Actis, Asia-Pacific managing director at Neo@Ogilvy, describes these teams as ‘collaborative cells’. He explains it is in WPP’s culture to be collective, which helps to reduce delays, friction and competing agendas. “We supply search intent and digital behavioural data and insights to OgilvyOne, Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, PR, etc. The insights are not only fed to creatives, but we work directly with the planning team to make sure strategy is digitally informed and led.”
However, some within the industry don’t see these moves as anything new or exciting. Kelvin Yim, regional director of search marketing at Reprise Media claims copywriters working within search agencies is something that’s been happening for a few years now.
However, he believes such copywriters must have a distinct skillset — arguably different from those possessed by most copywriters at creative agencies — to be successful within search agencies. “What we need is someone who can write something compelling and attractive within 38 characters,” he says. “As such, the copywriter training at our agency is different from the norm.”
Hari Shankar, general manager of Performics, holds a similar view. He says there are specific people who look into and hone copy in many PPC-led performance agencies. “Our professionals are very well trained in creating winning ad copy and that emerges from a good understanding of the brand, in close collaboration with our client partners,” he stated.
With clients such as Marriott, SIA, PayPal and Airbnb, they have not felt the need to employ a team of copywriters to write the small text copy for PPC advertising.
Shankar feels the only point where such a collaboration between copywriters and digital specialists would be appropriate is for large scale programmatic display campaigns run by clients, particularly around branding elements. Pointing to the likes of budget airlines and e-tailers with large product portfolios, he believes there is a genuine requirement for churning out a large number of creative units with differing products, price, propositions, positioning, and look and feel. “In this circumstance, it most certainly makes sense to have a creative team sitting right next to the performance team, who can be a seamless unit in driving performance.”
Search is still commanding a sizeable portion of digital marketing budgets. In many markets, it can account for up to half, especially if revenues affiliated with search engine optimisation (SEO) are included. And it tends to be the largest item for any marketer who is really serious about connecting with consumers who are actively researching for products and services. It is now an established part of all consumer journeys, so there’s no option for brands but to be thinking about it as a core, integrated part of their communications strategy.
“Search is the human navigational starting point,” says Neo@Ogilvy’s Actis. “We have evolved to utilise search to help us find every-thing from products and services to people and information about the world.
“It is vitally important and integrated into our digital lives and for brands, search can help inform strategies and messaging across all channels,” he adds.
As such, search specialists must develop and keep pace with changing consumer behaviour and online trends.
“Search agencies that don’t change and evolve will die,” warns iProspect’s Wood, who believes there is no SEO effectiveness without the ability to ‘create and distribute’ relevant and motivating content. “Equally, paid-for search can always be improved by the development of contextualised landing-page experiences and improved customer journeys,” he says. “Content must always be central.”
Further advice around a search strategy in today’s marketplace was offered by Yim. He implores brands to think carefully about using the same creative messaging across all campaign digital components, as well as off-line. They should, he believes, take a slightly different approach when it comes to search, in order to ‘tell a different story’ based around how consumers behave in a search environment.
Such guidance ties in with advice given in a recent address at Spikes Asia by Matt Harty, general manager of Accuen Asia-Pacific. Harty begged creatives to “put the salesman back into selling” and to use sophisticated data and modelling to tailor messages across consumers’ online journeys, rather than just use a single message across an entire campaign.