Search Becomes the Display OS

So I’m not really sure what this panel is going to be about because I originally had something else scheduled. Still, I think this will be a good time, and this way I don’t have to run between rooms for the next session. This also means I won’t lose my seat.

It’s a win-win. I mean just look at this line up:

Matt McGowan, Incisive Media

Speakers: (left to right)
Steven Kaufman, MediaMath
Jonathan Mendez, RAMP Digital
Dax Hamman, iCrossing

panelists of Search Becomes the Display OS at SES Chicago 2009

Matt McGowan gets us started as the Wi-Fi dies yet again. We’re going to be talking about how search ads have overtaken display ads. He introduces Jonathan, who pitched this session back at SES San Jose.

Jonathan Mendez takes the podium. When he got started in search he sort of hated display. They got all the money and the glory but didn’t convert as well and weren’t trackable like search.

He brings up the old slide of the Golden Triangle (pre-Universal). He compares it to heat tracking for display ads where people don’t look at the ads even a little bit.

Jonathan Mendez at SES Chicago 2009

Display falls victim to ad blindness and attention deficit disorder.

Search as display has better metrics. Let’s compare the two.


  • Display: looks for awareness, reach and frequency, CPM
  • The new display/”Search” OS: looks for performance, data, CPx


  • Display: bulk, site demo, past behavior
  • Search: differentiated, audience, current behavior


  • Display: no versioning, high development cost, lead time
  • Search: targeted, dynamic, self serve


  • Display: rate card, verbal, i/o
  • Search: bid and real-time bidding, exchanges, automated

Campaign Management

  • Display: high minimum, switching costs, no optimization
  • Search: low minimum, no switching cost, optimization

Steven Kaufman is up next.

slide by Steven Kaufman at SES Chicago 2009

On the left side of the supply landscape is real time bidding. You need to have some kind of agency to put that in place and manage it. It’s fast but it’s intensive and most aren’t there yet. Most bidding is done in the API level. Fewer but still some campaigns are done on UI bidding. Bid sheets are much more rare and very slow. They have “The Brain” which will figure bids and spit out information that’s right for each type of bidding.

[Still more about MediaMath here. If you would like to learn about how to use their tools, I’d suggest visiting their site. I’m too tired to recap an ad.]

He goes through a case study where they were able to do a DR campaign, add in a brand campaign and increased volume and conversions. So that’s nice.

Dax Hamman at SES Chicago 2009

Dax Hamman is up next. He has an awesome accent. [A cool name, too! –Virginia]

Typical large brand scenario:

+ pressure to grow revenues
+ sophisticated SEM program
+ need alternative ROI channels

= evolution of display media

He doesn’t think real time buying is a new thing.

We cannot continue to shout at the crowd. That has a tremendous amount of waste in it. We must talk to individuals. By its nature, search is talking to individuals. They needed new tools to make display act more like search.

Search retargeting (Yahoo):

Step 1: Individual searches for a term relevant to your business
Step 2: Individual is tagged with a cookie
Step 3: Individual clicks on an ad that isn’t yours
Step 4: Individuals can be identified by you 15 minutes later and they can be served an ad that brings them back

Site retargeting:

Step 1: Individual comes to the site
Step 2: The visit is recorded by a tracking pixel, but the user leaves before converting
Step 3: The tagged individual is identified again and an ad is displayed that it directly relevant
Step 4: The individual clicks on the ad and is brought back to your sight

These new media exchanges allow companies to buy “audiences” instead of inventory. It’s useless to buy if you don’t know your audience.

slide by Dax Hamman at SES Chicago 2009

What if:

A lot of consumers think that cookies are evil. The FTC wants cookies to be opt-in. It has huge implications for affliates and tracking. Europe already has opt-in cookies. As of April 26, 2011 cookies must all be opt-in. He encourages everyone to go read up on it and learn about it. NIA is trying to go to an opt-out model. If you like cookies, support the NIA.

Matt says that’s a bit doom and gloom, which… yeah it is. Yikes, Dax.

Dax says that exchanges are reaching critical mass. It’s not leftover data which is what people think. It’s people and you can target people directly. That’s why CPMs are low right now — it hasn’t yet been realized as valuable.

Steven Kaufman at SES Chicago 2009

Steven says that part of it is that people will pay more for The New York Times than for Publisher 12345. They need to convince people to expose that they’re selling on the exchanges.

Matt asks if the reason CPM is so low is because there’s too much supply and not enough demand. Dax thinks so but says that search retargeting is exchanges, and people don’t realize that.

Someone asks Dax to expand on social retargeting and how they identify who your friends are. What follows is the most distressing explanation ever. So they follow you from the site where you got cookied to Facebook. Then they take note of your Facebook ID and watch who you interact with on Facebook to figure out who your best friends are. Then they advertise to you on places other than Facebook with that information. Update: As Dax mentions below in the comments, at no point are they pulling personally identifiable information. Even your Facebook ID is encrypted so they can’t figure out who you are.

[Note to self: Delete cookies. Though, oddly enough, I don’t talk to my best friends on Facebook. That’s all family, high school people and you horrible marketer types.]

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (2)
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2 Replies to “Search Becomes the Display OS”

Susan Esparza

Thanks for the clarification, Dax. I forgot to add in the bit about personally identifiable information not being collected at any stage. I’ll update the post as that’s an important point.

Nice review.

Wanted to pass comment on a couple of points.

The first is around the FTC and cookie regulations. It may sound a little doom and gloom, but I strongly feel that we need a little bit of the shock factor. It is a much bigger issue than the industry realizes and we must take responsibility to educate folks on what’s happening.

I, like many, hope and believe that we will find a solution and it won’t be the end of many parts of our industry. But we will only find the solution if we know what might happen and we do something about it! Darwin’s evolutionary theory only works when pressure is applied for selection to occur, I am trying to help apply the pressure!

The second point is a clarification on the social retargeting piece.

– The user gets cookied when they land on the brand site
– We look for them in the social graph data that has been collecting as a sideline process
– We check to see who of their friends they are visiting the most and therefore determine their top friends list

Note that there is no PII collected at any stage.

And thanks for the note on the name ;-)


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