As Madison Avenue struggles to adjust to a new world in which savvy advertisers cut back on mass media and branding ad spend, many a big ad agency has announced their entry into the world of paid search management.

Despite what you might read in the pages of Media magazine or Advertising Age, I suspect that the transition from $20,000 retainers and three martini lunches to ROI and transparency has been rocky for many agencies. I still struggle to understand how an agency that is accustomed to charging millions a month to clients can manage to maintain their expensive offices and headcount and make any money from a measly 15% of spend paid search campaign. On top of that, when you have most agency executives trained in “lift” and “brand identity”, it’s hard to imagine these agencies being able to provide profit maximization, which is pretty much the point of paid search.

So, with these thoughts in mind, I thought the messaging of a recent AdSense spot from Acquisio that showed up in my Gmail was quite appropriate. Here’s the ad:

I love that call to action: Your Clients Will Love You Again! I’ll be the first to admit that I have not batted 1000 with clients – I’ve lost a couple of clients who I guess you could say never “loved” me for my paid search management. But I think I am still around .950 or greater – the Acquisio messaging makes it sound like hitting a blooper once in a series would be a success.

The other message inherent in this ad is that software can solve an agency’s problems – I assume either through better bid management or more likely pretty reports that can show the client that the agency is doing something. While I do believe that software is a must for large paid search campaigns, if your underlying paid search optimization approach isn’t sound in the first place, there is no software that acts as a panacea to cure all your ills.

But hey, if I’m an agency exec that sees that Acquisio ad, and I’ve had a hard time keeping paid search clients in the portfolio, I’d probably be willing to believe that software could be my magic ticket. Oh for those halcyon days of the 1980s – when client boondoggles and million dollar monthly invoices were par for the course! Sorry agencies, the days of “corporate unaccountability” are numbered, even with Acquisio.


  1. searchquant November 7th, 2008

    If Acquisio thinks that the individuals within medium and large agencies (both in terms of overall size and in terms of PPC spend under mgmt) are gonna seriously consider a vendor because they have a nifty search ad, they’re mistaken. Search has gotten important enough to the agencies I talk to that they’re looking at it much more strategically – at which point small, cash-burning startups seem far from the ideal partner. Consolidation in the SEM vendor space is going to accelerate heading into this horrific economic downturn, and the vendors who agencies will go with will have good technology, but will also have things no one cared about a year ago: 1)Solid financials; 2)Integration with other key technologies the agencies need; 3)Real capabilities to integrate search mgmt within the overall mix of marketing and conversion end-points be they online *or* offline.

  2. David Rodnitzky November 7th, 2008

    I think there may also be consolidation among search agencies, or at least big traditional agencies that really don’t understand search are going to have an even harder time holding on to their clients.Regarding point #3, I’d definitely like to see technology that integrates both offline sales but also manages non-text-based ads, such as banner ads, video, and mobile. Search is more than just text these days . . .

  3. Tom Cole November 12th, 2008

    Although agencies are waking up to the need for search expertise, there will be a great opportunity for good independent search practitioners for time to come! (Yes, shameless plug for DR)

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David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.