Advertising Technology

Hey, Engines: What About the Little(r) Guys?

KrystinaThis column was written by Krystina Rubino, Associate Director, eDR, at Underscore Marketing, an independent media agency that creates and manages digital marketing programs.

In an ideal world, agencies would have a rock solid relationship with every Google and Yahoo!(/Bing) team they work with, to help both the agency and its clients navigate the evolving search landscape and maximize return. At Underscore, since many of our clients are in the health and wellness vertical, it’s especially important for us to evaluate the marketplace and new product enhancements constantly, and translate that impact to our current and future campaigns. Given that new enhancements can happen seemingly at the drop of a hat, and that these changes often result in sweeping implications for our clients, the importance of a great relationship can’t be underemphasized.

Unfortunately, it’s become time-consuming to figure out who to work with at the engines when it comes time to set up our smaller pharma accounts. To be clear: we’re not talking about accounts that spend $5 a month. These clients invest significant sums by most publishers’ standards. We don’t currently have an assigned agency lead, probably because we’re a smaller independent shop, so it’s especially challenging to execute some of our trickier campaigns that require manual approvals.

In short, Google and Yahoo!(/Bing) seem to be evaluating account importance based largely on the size of your current media investment. It seems to be more and more about the size of our wallet on a given account versus support for the agency’s clients on a whole. And that’s so not ideal.

In fact, if it’s not immediately obvious and/or tied to a current campaign, the first question I often get back via email when I send a request to an assigned representative on an existing account is “What account is this for?” Often, we’re forwarded to a “mid-market” team, or even the 1-800 numbers and/or service emails, where the level of complete ignorance about the pharmaceutical category is staggering. Our team has been on calls where we reference “black box ad format approvals,” and they say “what’s that?”

This focus on short-term budget opportunity vs. long-term growth strikes us as remarkably short-sighted; some of the largest accounts we work on at Underscore are accounts that started out much smaller only six or 12 months ago, and gained steam as proven trends in performance and positive return on investment emerged. That’s typically how everyone wants it to work, right? You do a great job, and then you get to maximize the results of the collective effort put forth by the client (advertiser), media agency and publisher.

It’s great that the engines continue to invest in their products and evaluate their offerings based on how media consumption and consumer habits are evolving. But unless you’re the category/market leader in a space, or currently spending enough on a few brands at the same company to justify an assigned rep, it’s impossible to get in touch with someone who can help you navigate the changes successfully for your client. Of course there are exceptions to the norm, and several of our contacts at the engines genuinely take an interest in our business and put forth effort, even helping occasionally on accounts they aren’t directly responsible for.

Regardless of the attention the engines do or do not pay to certain accounts, our job as an agency is to continue to drive strategy and results for all of our clients. It’s just disappointing that our publisher partners are out of sync with the marketplace as a whole, especially pharma, and are prioritizing immediate revenue opportunity over long-term partnership.


The team at Underscore Marketing contributes to The Makegood. Underscore Marketing is an independent media agency that creates and manages digital marketing programs.