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Ladies and Gentlemen: Search Has Your Attention


"Google has become the remote control for the world; it's the first stop, not TV”

- Will Margiloff, CEO of Innovation Interactive

Nothing is more realtime than Search. Have a question? Search gets the answer for you right away. Need to find something right now? Search will track it down in less than half a second. Search has the ability to recover and discover information at the time and (with the rise in Mobile Search) at the place a person needs it. The need for immediate access to content fuels the realtime web and its monetization potential.

“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it"

- Herb Simon (1971)

Before most people would ever conceive of Search “Engines” or AdWords Herbert Simon understood value was in attention allocation, not the information. Twitter is perhaps the best “push” application to better allocate our attention amid the overabundance of information and Search the best “pull” application. The Internet is littered with valuable moments of attention but conventional wisdom is that ad dollars are not being allocated based on the percentage of public attention the medium receives. This despite attention is the first part of marketing’s most well known acronym AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action).

“A-I-D-A - get out there. You got the prospects coming in. You think they need to get out of the rain? A guy don’t walk on the lot lest he wants to buy. They’re sitting out there waiting to give you their money. Are you going to take it? Are you man enough to take it?”

- Blake (on a mission of mercy)

Google was man enough to take it. Advertisers have lined up to give Google money in order to attract those valuable moments of attention. Today there are nine advertisers bidding on the keyword “oil spill.” Prior to April 20th of this year there were none. These realtime emergent markets are part of the power of Search. “Michael Jackson”, “Swine Flu”, “Super Bowl”, our attention is fleeting but those moments of allocation whether they are hours, days or months have people waiting to give their time and on the web. As with other media channels time equals money.

“In two months, BP went from spending very little on search advertising -- about $57,000 a month -- to becoming one of Google's top advertisers, dropping nearly $3.6 million in the month of June alone.”

- Advertising Age 

This is what makes Search a unique channel. There is no planning for Search. There are no flight dates for campaigns. Demand is based on the realtime ebb and flow of public interest and intent. As Will said in the quote above, Search is a user- controlled media. Giving people that control (apart from being revolutionary) has worked out pretty darn well for advertisers. In fact, creating more inventory to satisfy them has been Google’s number one priority the past five years. There is simply not enough keyword driven inventory.

Some people may argue this is because Google has allocated attention too efficiently. Others may argue the demand is simply not there. I believe these moments of attention are abundant and require understanding the realtime nature of attention. Capturing those moments of attention at different times and in different places is the future of not only of Search advertising, but all advertising.

Blake would like your attention now:



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Great post as usual. Having the best offering when attention has been allocated to one's product is an amazing opportunity.

You mention "there is no planning for search." I am interested in doing better when one can plan for search- interest in our products comes in waves throughout the year, outdoor living, kitchen remodeling, etc. It's fairly predictable.

Thanks again for your enlightening articles.

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