Tim Judd has a message to share with all marketers: “Whether you like it or not, your audience has fractured, so get over it.” The same consumers who just 10 years ago were reachable through one or two means are now tuned into television, radio, websites, blogs and social media, he says, and search is at the root of those and most other channels that marketers are scrambling to add to their repertoires right now.
“You can’t get away with just buying a few pay-per-click keywords anymore,” says Judd, president and CEO at Temecula, Calif.-based eLocal Listing, a provider of search-driven lead generation solutions for local businesses. “You have to cover search thoroughly or risk getting left behind.”
Judd points to the “two guys running their company from a garage” example as proof of search’s power. On the Internet, no one can discern the size of that operation, or its prowess. “A national leader in the same industry as those two guys can easily get crowded out, mainly because the larger firm is still thinking in 1990s marketing terms,” says Judd. “What it doesn’t realize is that it’s a messy world out there; you have to cover all of the bases.”
In fact, the word “messy” is an understatement, according to Judd, who envisions a time when marketers struggle to engage consumers and drive leads in an increasingly global world. “It’s a nightmare,” says Judd, “and we’re in the middle of it, helping to untangle this massive ball of string.”
Founded in 2007, eLocal Listing isn’t Judd’s first foray into the world of search. In fact, he’s a pioneer in the field. In 1999, he joined Fast Search and Transfer (FAST), a provider of enterprise search solutions, as director of business development. An early competitor in the Web search wars of the early 2000s, FAST was later acquired by Overture Advertising, which was subsequently merged into Yahoo.
Judd’s next stop was Terra Lycos, which — at the time — was another large player in the search game. There he was responsible for the maintenance and growth of the company’s SideSearch product, which displayed related web links in a panel on users’ Internet Explorer browsers.
After racking up success at two major search firms, Judd was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. “At that point, I knew that I wanted to form my own U.S.-based search consulting firm,” recalls Judd, who started Contraco USA, an international search and consulting company focusing on vertical applications of innovative search technology.
Around the time Judd decided to strike out on his own, a few kids in a college dorm were making waves with an innovative search engine known as Google. “There was a clear winner in the national search space, followed by a clear second place and third place,” says Judd. “For anyone else to break into national search would require an enormous war chest, which was pretty impossible to come by.”
Uninterested in going head-to-head with Google — despite his expertise in the national search arena — Judd set his sights on what he calls “the next big frontier” — local search. Unlike the soup-to-nuts national searches, local search utilizes specialized search engines and geographically constrained parameters to provide only those results applicable to a structured database of local business listings.
With the escalating consumption of smartphones and increasing attention to mobile capabilities flooding the market, it could be an easy mistake to think traditional television and online video advertising were falling by the wayside of other digital platforms. But a mistake it would still be.
Entertainment media and video advertising isn’t going anywhere — it’s simply evolving to keep up with tech-savvy consumers who are taking more control of when and where they view content. U.S. online advertising is expected to increase 20.2 percent to reach $31.3 billion this year and is projected to hit $50 billion by 2015 — and video advertising continues to be the fasting-growing format, with 52-percent growth expected this year alone, according to a study by eMarketer released in June.
“The way people use and experience television has changed profoundly over the past five years. Consumers are taking control of their viewing and following their own schedules to access video content when and where it is convenient for them,” says Suranga Chandratillake, founder and CEO of blinkx, a video search engine. “In 2011, converged Internet and TV services and devices have really become mainstream, which has reshaped the television landscape by creating a different kind of platform through which advertisers and content creators can reach consumers.”
Online ad spending is returning to pre-recession growth levels, and marketers have been quick to be lured in by the greater targeting and measurement provided by online video.
“The Internet has become as fundamental as television to advertisers,” says eMarketer principal analyst David Hallerman. “As consumers continue to increase their time spent online and as a resurgent economy continues to bolster ad budgets, we’re going to continue to see an influx of dollars toward the Internet. More ad formats, such as video, and more channels, especially social media and mobile, are also key contributors to the spending gains.”
The merging of online video advertising and traditional television strategies is producing more and more innovative opportunities for brands in direct response and beyond to connect with purchasers. Television is still an enormous medium to drive product sales for advertisers, and connected TV — where ad content can be more interactive, localized and tailored to specific viewers — is emerging as the perfect solution for advertisers looking to meld mediums.
“Connected TV presents many opportunities for brands and marketers. As consumer behavior continues to change, it is more important than ever before for brands to take advantage of TV online and deliver content in a way that is interactive and engaging,” Chandratillake says. “Connected TV will allow more customization and interaction with ads, it will allow brands to target their ads more effectively — reaching consumers where and when they want to be reached with the content they are most interested in — and it will also improve the ability to track and measure success of a particular ad.”
Industry experts say connected TV provides video advertisers with completely new opportunities to create viewing experiences for consumers that are personal and timely. When merging the Internet with TV, a standard car commercial can be revolutionized and upgraded with a variety of features directly linking viewers to the car brand’s website or allowing them to research local dealers without every getting up from their couches.
Audi launched the U.K.’s first connected TV video advertising campaign in April, partnering with video ad network Smartclip to support the launch of the new A7 Sportback. The Audi campaign runs through this month and uses pre-roll ads to target Audi enthusiasts watching videos through Internet-enabled television, according to the car company. In addition, Audi has launched its own TV app, which links consumers back to the brand’s main website and compiles all existing Audi videos in one centralized location.
Video search engine blinkx indexes more than 35 million hours of audio, video, viral and TV content, making it fully searchable and available on demand. The San Francisco- and London-based company has forged a number of strategic entries into the connected TV space during the past year-and-a-half to incorporate its index of Web videos into the offerings of device manufacturers like Boxee and Roku.
Campaigns like Audi’s are only the beginning and could be applied to any traditional or direct response campaign, according to industry experts.
“Advertisers need to reach out across all of these platforms, whether that is connected TVs, iPads, smartphones or desktop computers, and they need to do it in a way that is not only cost-effective but also measurable,” says Shirlene Chandrapal, vice president of connected TV for Smartclip, which launched an ad server dedicated to running video ads on connected TVs in a standardized format last year. “Here, the key differentiator lies in the ability to offer transparent reporting across all devices in a universal way to give clear insight into user interaction with different types of advertising formats. The real game-changer however will be the use of online video advertising formats.”
The market is ripe for innovation and still hasn’t hit its full potential, Chandratillake adds.
“Innovation is a human thing, not simply engineering,” the blinkx CEO says. “Mobile phones with Internet support and browsers existed in 2000, but almost no one used them. It took Blackberry and Apple to come to market with very specific products with the right design, right UI (user interface), right combination of killer applications and, frankly, great marketing to change that almost overnight. Connected TV is still waiting for the equivalent player or product.”
Challenges, including budget concerns for DR marketers in particular, remain for advertisers looking to properly utilize connected TV’s capabilities, according to Chandratillake, who says DR marketers will have to fight to outbid brand interest and companies with larger budgets for bigger shows and optimal time slots.
“Connected TV ads will be dominated by brand-orientated advertising vs. direct response advertising. TV is a fantastic medium for brand marketers and those marketers have massive budgets that still haven’t really come to other mediums,” he says. “I do think it will change the nature of the game though — it will allow for significantly more fine-grained targeting and the ability to track and measure success will be amazing compared to regular TV.”