June 20, 2006 11:07 am

Cannes Lions Diary: Search under scrutiny

“It’s time for companies to eat their own dog food.”

With that striking exhortation, the CEO of one international media buying operation on Monday urged technology companies to show greater commitment to internet advertising by increasing their spend. The theme is repeatedly evoked at the 53 Cannes Lions Advertising Festival; the culinary challenge less so.

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Internet advertising worldwide will grow by 25 per cent year on year, according to figures released on Monday by Carat, the media buyer.

The problem for marketers is that the fastest growing category of spending is search - such as buying Google keywords for instance. This prompts agencies and clients to question how their expensively-produced branding messages survive when they are reduced to appearing as names in lists of search results.

Laura Desmond, chief executive of Mediavest USA, which advises clients such as P&G, Masterfoods and Kraft on buying and planning media, said: “Google is going to have to change its business model soon. Search alone isn’t where marketing is today. It is about search and branding and putting the two together.”

At the Cannes Lions, Google and Yahoo!, two leading search engines, on Monday promised to share more research with advertisers to persuade them search can be used in effective combination with traditional advertising to build brands as well as generate sales.

Damian Burns, head of European agency relations at Google, said: “There is a need for self-education among agencies and clients. But I don’t believe that you can have people being exposed to brands on search results day after day without that having an impact on brand building.”

During one conference event, campaigns by IBM and an onscreen prompt by Donald Trump, presenter of “The Apprentice”, the US reality show, for viewers to investigate a new coffee product online, were cited as examples of pairing television and search. In both cases, online searches for keywords related to the campaigns rose sharply after relevant keywords were used onscreen.

Speakers said marketers would in future have to time their spend on search engine keywords to coincide with television or press campaigns to get the best results.

The advice comes as US television networks increasingly promote themselves to advertisers as offering access to viewers via the internet and broadband alongside traditional airtime.

But when one participant asked “Is there any new money?”, meaning was advertising money spent on the internet largely being taken from existing television, press or radio budgets, speakers were less confident that internet search spend was increasing overall advertising spend.

The internet is predicted to take a bigger share of advertising spend in the US than all US newspapers by 2008 and to overtake nationally-distributed newspapers in the UK by the end of this year, according to separate forecasts by Carat, owned by Aegis, and GroupM, part of WPP.

Click here for Monday’s Cannes Lions diary

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