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2012: We Weren’t Warned, Only Teased

In my 8 years doing search marketing, I’ve seen our space evolve from a little cottage industry of web geeks to a legitimate line item in the marketing budgets of most advertisers.  It’s been an exciting ride and the ad community has become much more aware of the value of search – whether it is used to generate sales, increase brand engagement or as a research tool.  I may be a bit naïve, but I really did feel like most advertisers were familiar with search marketing (whether or not they took action) and appreciated the value it offers.  I felt like this until… I saw this billboard off the 405 freeway heading to a wedding in Huntington Beach:

Search 2012 [1]

My first reaction was excitement and affirmation that our industry is finally here to stay.  What a great use of search marketing!

2012, an upcoming blockbuster movie starring John Cusack, Amanda Peet and Danny Glover, is said to have a $200MM budget.  Clearly Sony is expecting this movie to be a big hit.

So you could imagine my excitement when I found that not only has the entertainment community embraced search,  but a company like Sony was actively encouraging users to do research about this film by way of search.  After my moment of exhilaration, I did the following 2 things –

  1. Did a search on my iphone for “2012” while I was sitting in traffic (yes, I know, texting is against the law in CA).  FAIL!
  2. Once I got home, I did a search on my laptop for “2012”.  FAIL!

It was mind boggling that I could not find any listings about the movie, 2012, in the Google paid search results in wired or mobile search.  What did I find – Amazon, Ask.com and Numerologist.com?!  Forget search integration into the media mix… Sony went as far as asking users to search for them, but didn’t deliver on their expectations.  Now granted, I was able to find their listing at 12:02am but checking later in the day (approximately 9:30am), again they didn’t show up.  Which led me to the conclusion that they were thinking about paid search when Sony launched this ad campaign, but they didn’t apply enough budget to capture 100% share of voice – which is probably about $10-$20k for a few weeks.  Again, it’s a shame that Sony is willing to spend $200MM on this flick, but won’t allocate .01% of that budget to close the loop.

2012 SERP [2]

I was able to find the official site of the movie and thought it was poetic that they even promoted iphone apps on their site.  Again, great ideas on offering consumers what they want, but little thought to getting users to the site.  If they are prompting users to search 2012 on billboards and bus stops, why not buy a cheap link in mobile search.

2012 site [3]

I think the worst part is the advertising efforts did exactly what it intended… promote the movie and ask users to search for 2012 to extend the brand and begin a relationship with these users.  Looking at Google insights, it’s obvious the ad campaigns launched in early October.  Yet, the execution was done poorly.

2012 insights [4]

I think the idea was great and give it an A.  But the effort and execution was poor and give it an F.

Here is what I learned from this experience –

In order to get this right, you have to work with a search specialist that will make sure all facets of an SEM campaign are built out correctly (keywords, creatives, budget allocation, bidding) so you are fulfilling the goals you set out to accomplish.

About Frank Lee

Frank is SVP of Client Services at The Search Agency and oversees paid search, conversion path optimization, and display media. He has been referred to as the "Mayor of Search," managing strategic partnerships with all the major search engines and publishers.