Thursday, July 27, 2006

David Ogilvy on Search

(Editor's Note: This article written by Where's My Jetpack? originally appeared in the AdTech Daily publication at AdTech New York)

What does some old dinosaur who isn’t even with us anymore know about Search Engine Marketing? Pretty much everything.

Traditional advertising agencies have long turned up their noses to the practice of Search Engine Marketing, but perhaps they may finally be getting the message that Search actually works and it’s time to start devoting a healthy percentage of their practices to it. I’m not talking about fun FLASH banner ads and funny little sites that showcase real technical and creative talent on behalf of a client. I’m talking about the Search Engine Results Pages.

The problem for many is that Search is not glamorous; it’s just words. Most agencies will now at the least reserve a little corner of their suite where they keep “the Interactive Marketing freaks,” but the real fun is still in TV, radio and other high profile, glamour-hogging arenas. There is no punch, zip or zing in the Search campaign. There are no fancy storyboards or thought-provoking imagery.
The Man

Maybe traditional ad agencies are forgetting the words of one of the long-revered gurus of the field, David Ogilvy. Ogilvy died in 1999 and didn’t get to see the full-circle that advertising would take. Often referred to as the “Father of Advertising,” Ogilvy preferred words to images. If he were still in the game today, he would likely enjoy creating PPC ads.

The following are a few quotes of Ogilvy’s. It doesn’t take much imagination to apply them to Search.“I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.”

“Advertising is a business of words, but advertising agencies are infested with men and women who cannot write. They cannot write advertisements, and they cannot write plans. They are helpless as deaf mutes on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.”

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

“Shakespeare wrote his sonnets within a strict discipline, fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, rhyming in three quatrains and a couplet. Were his sonnets dull? Mozart wrote his sonatas within an equally rigid discipline - exposition, development, and recapitulation. Were they dull?”

“The headline is the 'ticket on the meat.' Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.”

“There is no need for advertisements to look like advertisements. If you make them look like editorial pages, you will attract about 50 per cent more readers.”

“What really decides consumers to buy or not to buy is the content of your advertising, not its form.”

It’s all come back to headlines, words and information. Try fitting a creative, attention-grabbing headline into a 25-character space. Now make your prospect click on your ad using just two lines of 35 characters each. True advertisers should love this game.

Keeping up with Search today is like trying to follow a bumblebee in flight. Darting here and there, hovering for a few moments in one spot and then zipping off in another direction, Search seems too often to be blown by the next breeze or lured by the latest sweet-smelling flower. But it’s really just words. SEO, SEM, tags, meta-tags, keywords, key phrases, xml feeds, page titles, descriptions, landing pages, information pages; they’re all just words.

Naturally, Black Hatters aren’t helping the image of the erratic flight path, only they make Search look more like a bat, hiding in caves and coming out at night, concealing their tactics and appearing only to feed on easy prey. This is nothing new. Advertising has always had a Dark Side, practitioners who rely on less than honest means to make the sale.

It’s time for the search firms and the old-school agencies to come together as equal partners. The buyers are now online as much as they are reading magazines and watching TV. And I think if David Ogilvy were still around, he’d be sitting alongside his copywriters and PPC specialists, thrilling to the creative challenge of using only words.

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