June 20th, 2006

Search Advertising Does NOT Build Brands


At the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival, search advertising is getting slammed for its inability to build brands — and rightly so:

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.”

Of course, Google and Yahoo push back:

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.”

Ok, let’s try an empirical test. I went over to Style.com and found this ad for Prada Perfume at Neiman Marcus.

Prada Perfume Ad

If you click through, you’ll find that Prada Tendre perfume sells for $95 — not cheap. Why would anyone spend that much on a bottle of perfume? Hmmm.

Next I went to Google and searched for “designer perfume” — sure enough, there was “Prada Perfume” at the top of the “sponsored” listings.

Google Designer Perfume

So there, you see, search advertising is just as effective.

Except it’s not.

There is only ONE reason why anyone would click on the Prada Perfume text ad — the Prada brand. And how did Prada build that brand? Through compelling IMAGES.

If it’s just text vs. text, then the transactional, price-driven ethos of search kicks in and instead the click likely goes to the Scentiments.com ad, because who wouldn’t want to “save up to 80% on perfume”?

So without brand, instead of shopping here…

Prada Neiman Marcus

You shop here…


Google needs to figure out brand advertising or it’s going to hit a wall very soon.

That concludes our demonstration.

  • With all due respect, your example wasn't scientific and was based only on your view, which is OK, but let's be honest. You're not familar -- and Laura's not familar -- with Google's options. One can show an image in a Google ad and thus present their brand. Please investigate this. Thanks.

  • folks,

    this has already happened even if no one in techland is paying attention. over in fashionland we've united ALL THE BLOGS (perfume bloggers included scott), figured out branding (message diffusion) versus conversion (reviews to sales), and are working with the large fashion PR firms to help them interact with online media.

    yawn. the revolution has already happened, gen-y has moved beyond theory into practice, and we're doing rather well. however, because we're not another photo-sharing site, techcrunch won't cover us and thus you guys miss out on all the fun.

    phil & julie


  • Scott,

    I understand and empathize!

    I'm just curious now if my browser is the cause of my Comment #28 not being able to open my entire first comment when I click on the "Comment Link", or is this due to what you just said about a legitimate comment being lost in the shuffle? Either way, I'm OK with it, but just curious.

  • Bill,

    I don't now, nor have I ever censored comments. I apologize for the delay in posting your comment. Two things for you to keep in mind before you jump to conclusions:

    1. I'm not a 24 hour operation
    2. I get deludged by comment spam -- occasionally, a legitimate comment gets lost in the shuffle

  • Scott, you certainly have the right and power to censor my 6/23/06 comment, but I would really appreciate knowing why.

    My comment evolved around new forms of brand building advertising/marketing of which Search Marketing is one. But, since I don't think you will publish this comment either, I'll cut to the chase of my former comment's point by directing you to a link I found by reading "The gordon Gould Weblog" 6/24/06 comment that you did publish (I assume that if you are publishing 6/24/06 comments that you censored mine - If I'm wrong, I apologize).

    "The gordon Gould Weblog" link to this blog post which is more detailed than my censored comment says pretty much where I'm coming from in a review of the book "Brand Hijack":


    PS - Thanks for disclosing to Danny and your readers that your title for this post was a form of "title bait" used to solicit comments. I'm just curious why you are allowing some comments and not others?

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