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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Do You Zoom-Zoom? Branded Keyword Use Now Mainstream

As John Battelle reports, Mazda's off to the races buying terms like "Pontiac" for its AdWords campaign.

As long as certain conditions are satisfied, this is perfectly legal in the U.S., as many of us have long argued. It's "in line with forms of comparative advertising" that have been legal all along.

This stellar move by Mazda leverages three powerful principles of keyword advertising. First, it targets a highly salient keyword that is theoretically available at decent cost. Second, it leverages someone else's media spend. If Pontiac is devoting some of its ad budget to telling people to "Google Pontiac," then the number of searches on "Pontiac," by people actively seeking to learn about car features, goes up. Other advertisers can piggyback on that awareness (without spending the same TV and print ad dollars) by bidding on the same keywords, and measuring the results. All perfectly legal. Not only legal, but savvy.

Third, the landing page is a direct marketer's dream: it's lead-generation oriented. The results of the ad can potentially be tracked all the way through to sale. Or at the very least, a metric like cost-per-test-drive can be generated, and further inferences made based on known ratios of test-drive-to-sale. (And, you still have that consumer's info, for the next low-cost postal mail campaign.) Oh, baby. What are the "brand" gurus going to do for a living? Where's the fancy flash animation? (I love those flashy car websites, don't get me wrong. They whet the appetite. But getting warm bodies into dealerships is a lot more tangible.)

The only drawback here -- and Google loves this part -- is that Google's seen this coming for a long time. They either want to see less of this kind of advertising, or know that the ones who will ultimately go gonzo for it are the deep pocketed crowd, such as ego-driven automakers. Currently, low quality scores seem to be rampant on trademark or brand related keywords. Low quality scores translate into a mandatory high minimum bid in AdWords. I wouldn't be surprised if they're forced to bid $5.00 just to show up at all. To show up at the top of the page, we might be looking at a CPC of $10-12 or more.

Then again, it's possible that quality score might be raised in this case if Mazda actually puts a comparison on the page, and mentions Pontiac in detail in the comparison, because that would make the landing page relevant. The algo's a secret, and so are the innards of Mazda's advertising account. :)

Advantage, Google (doesn't that sound familiar?). Now they've got ego-driven honchos in bidding wars for each others' brand names. When Google demonstrates how to make money on something, Yahoo usually isn't far behind in copycatting it, so I'd expect Yahoo to loosen their editorial restrictions on such words inside of a year.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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