If I were to examine the principal thread that runs through many of my all-time favorite films…it would be that that a large number of them contain non-linear narratives.  In other words, the story doesn’t follow a logical chronology where time advances forward throughout the film (allowing for the occasional well-marked flashback).

While most conventional films have a linear storyline, even people who aren’t cinephiles have likely watched famous exceptions to the rule.  For example, Memento contained a fully developed backwards chronological narrative.  Also, Inception used falling through different levels of consciousness as a very effective vehicle for linking together each thread of the plot.

As an avid movie watcher, what I frequently find more compelling are narratives that stray very far afield from conventional story telling.  Antonioni’s Blow-Up (one of my favorite all time films) contained a very slim plot of a photographer accidentally photographing a murder but this narrative thread is extremely muted within the film’s atmosphere and social commentary about Swinging ’60s London.  Also, a little-known favorite film of mine Play It As it Lays liberally use the film convention of not only running totally asynchronous audio and video in many scenes but also skipping around in the time chronology of the story without making it clear to the audience that this is happening…forcing the viewer have to piece together the narrative from the disparate fragments that have been presented.  Of course, who can forget Koyannisqatsi, which dispenses with conventional narrative entirely in favor of piecing together speeded-up video splices as a vehicle for storytelling.

What’s the point of my discourse on film narratives?

Top-level paid search management doesn’t come close to following any conventional narrative.  It much more closely resembles Play It As It Lays or Koyannisqatsi than it does the conventional linear Hollywood formula.


People (including myself) publish posts along the lines of “Top 10 Paid Search Tips” where they explain in as simple manner as possible (myself excluded) the fruits of their knowledge and experience in such a way as to both teach their audience and promote the blog (and themselves) as technical experts in paid search.  However, success in paid search is considerably more nuanced and can’t just be learned from independent study.  Professional development must occur not just from the rote performance of tasks but creating and extending new and diverse neurological pathways so that lessons learned can be applied to similar yet unique tasks to be encountered in the future.

Each account we manage follows a strict “Alpha Beta” protocol that’s outlined in our whitepaper on the subject.  Alpha Beta is a powerful process that generates amazing results…but it’s not the end game for our account management, just the beginning. Alpha Beta begets a large number of vibrant narratives that, if identified, can be exploited for the benefit of our clients.  The true value in our account management isn’t just the mechanics of our work (for we’ve inspired many others to adapt them) but our perception of their outcomes and how we react to what we perceive.

Paid search is much more of an art than a science, and the rules are just a jumping-off point for a controlled improvisation where, if smartly done, the true value lies.


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Todd Mintz
Todd Mintz, who has been with 3Q Digital since March 2011, has worked in search engine marketing since 2000 and has used Google AdWords since it began. He also is very visible in the SEM social media space and is a curator/contributor at MarketingLand. He was one of the founding members of SEMpdx (Portland’s Search Engine Marketing Group), is a current board member, and writes regularly on their blog.