What's The Biggest Challenge For Search Marketers When It Comes To Display Advertising?

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One QuestionOften, a question doesn't have an easy answer in the digital advertising business. This is a column devoted to an answer to a single question or topic - and providing a bit of space for it.

Today's participant is Chris Lien, CEO of Marin Software, an advertising platform technology company. He recently answered a series of questions in a conversation with AdExchanger.com beginning with...

AdExchanger.com: What's the biggest challenge for search marketers when it comes to display advertising?

CL: The main challenge for search marketers with display advertising is that they come at advertising from a different perspective. Search advertising grew from a direct marketing or direct response perspective where you were driving a consumer or a business to take a direct action such as purchasing something or fill out a lead form. There was almost no branding, if you will, or tracking of influence done by a search marketer.

Display is online television at its roots and, in terms of an influence medium, offers a branding opportunity or creates awareness. It has been a distant goal of display advertising to drive direct response - or a specific action – and, generally creates awareness in a person that later could take action -they would be influenced by the ad impression that they had viewed.

Those are fundamentally different perspectives and at the core of what is challenging both for a search marketer, and then similarly for display folks when they talk to search marketers. Display is more focused, in general, on influence and less on driving specific action. Therefore, it can often seem like the two groups are speaking different languages.

Do you think search marketers can succeed in a market where brand awareness is the goal?

Yes. I think what ultimately brings everyone together like a happy, but rambunctious family is the rise of measurement tools and analytics and the ability to bring accountability both to search marketing, which has generally always had it, and to branding and display efforts, which will become more measurable. There have been terrific advances over the years in measuring what is the influence of display and what are the downstream or attributable actions that you can tie back to a display ad. I think ultimately they come together, and then there's just a spectrum of what actions are driven by either search or by display.

Got ya. Building on all that, what do you see as the biggest challenge with platform-based buying today?

It goes back to what percentage of the addressable inventory can be bought and managed through the platform. So search, again, would be on the extreme where 100% of the inventory can be bought through a platform such as ours or anyone's because the API connection to the platform accesses 100% of the inventory. For display and social, there are no hard and fast numbers that I've seen, but I would say it's probably between 10 and 25% of the inventory. That would be on an impressions basis for display and not on a dollars basis. I think on a dollars basis the amount of display that can be bought through a platform is probably down at the 10% or so level. But again, the industry doesn't share a lot of data.

A big chicken and the egg for the adoption of platforms and display based buying -primarily for social and then more traditional display publishers - is for more inventory to be made available by the publishers, and then that will better engage the advertisers.

There's been growth of inventory over the last two or three years with the rise of these biddable exchanges, but I think if you were to survey the advertisers, they would like to have access to better and more premium inventory. And then at the same time, to be fair to the publishers, they want to retain tighter control of that inventory and therefore they're holding on to their older way of selling, which is a more in-person, relationship-based sale as opposed to an impersonal data-driven sale over a platform.

So there's a tension there, but in general the amount of inventory on the platforms is growing, both for display and for social.

Follow Marin Software (@marinsoftware) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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