Search Becomes the Display Operating System


I first wrote about the idea of search strategies working in
display to deliver more relevant ads two years ago. In the ensuing two years as
followers of this blog know I’ve become passionate about the opportunity to build
creative technology that makes display ads more relevant. One advantage I have
working on these solutions is that I’m an outsider. I don’t think the way
people in the display world think. I’m wired differently. I am and will always be a
search guy.

That mindset helps because search is more than a channel.
Search is the way people use the web. People don’t just fire up a browser without a goal in mind. We are all taking
actions on the web based on our goal. Information we notice and content we experience
along our goal path may change our goals, but it does not change the two basic natures of how we use the web – recovery and discovery.

Therein lies the key functional distinction between display and search.
Search (as an app on the platform) is weaved into the web and the way we use
it. Display is not. Display is layered on top of the web. This is why despite
twelve years and countless millions of investment it has never performed.
Frankly, it was doomed from the get-go. It never was a web service but rather built to be its own parallel platform
(ehem, “Platform A”). The problem inherent with that is the medium is itself a platform. Ads
will never control this medium. Here the medium (users) should control the ads.

These ideas formed the basis of RAMP – to shrink dynamic landing pages and
serve them to people based on any number of rules – effectively reverse engineering
the search experience into display's near limitless inventory and producing higher ROI through lower display
CPM than search CPC. One year later we are doing all of this with some amazing
technologies supporting these endeavors. We are creating display ads to be off
ramps to existing goal paths and on ramps to changed goals. We are using
keywords to define the ad that is shown and allowing users to maintain control
over the content experience within the ad much the same way one would use a

That brings me to this:

"The increasing marginal returns of search
advertising are now doing more than taking market share from display
advertising, they are en route becoming display advertising's operating

I read this from Scott Rafer (Founder of MyBlogLog, Mashery & Lookery)
this past October. It encapsulated my own thinking and at the same time made me
think the ideas I was working on with RAMP were part of something much larger
and something that it was time to talk about.

So when it came time to pitch session ideas to SES New York I contacted
them and led off my pitch with Scott’s quote. They immediately agreed to add
this session
, give it primetime slot on the agenda and kept Scott’s quote in
the summary.

I’m psyched that Search Becomes the Display OS will be the first
conference session explaining and exploring the many ways search strategies,
technology and innovation are making advertising more relevant, creating better experiences for people and delivering increased performance for advertisers and publishers.

So on March 25th at 2:15pm I hope you’ll join me in New York when Scott Rafer, Amit Kumar (former lead of
Yahoo Search Monkey now VP Product for Dapper) and Bob Dillon VP of Product Marketing
at Yahoo help usher in a new era of technology, functionality, relevance and
performance in display.

Previous Posts on Bringing Search to Display:

Intelligent Web: Where Search & Display Advertising

Display Becomes Us

Real Behavioral Targeting Focuses on Intent

Behavioral Targeting is Not Just Banners


7 responses to “Search Becomes the Display Operating System”

  1. derek.newman Avatar

    “producing higher ROI through lower display CPM than search CPC”
    Wow – Is this possible? If display begins to outperform search then it will attract more players and drive up prices.
    Can this work for (very) small players – or do the numbers only work for large advertising campaigns? ($50k+)
    “near limitless inventory” – I don’t understand this. Could you please explain?


  2. Jonathan Mendez Avatar

    hi derek,
    i think the numbers work for anyone. you can get a lot of impressions now for very little money. used to be you needed $20k to get display ads online. Now you can launch campaigns for $5k. This opens display up to a lot more (small) advertisers.
    as far as limitless inventory there are only so many people that search on a given kw each day. search impressions for toyota for example are pretty much the same over the past 5 years in google. however in display toyota can get 10mm impressions one day and the next day buy 20mm impressions. the inventory is there if you want to buy it.
    hope that helps.
    rave on,


  3. derek.newman Avatar

    Thanks jonathan,
    yep – makes it clear.
    Looking forward to your deck for this presentation if you decide to post it.
    “This opens display up to a lot more (small) advertisers.” – interesting. I need to do some testing on our little site.
    I’m still flawed by the idea that display could be a better investment than search!


  4. Jonathan Mendez Avatar

    on a pure ROI standpoint display might never be as great as search. but it has an ability to produce volume and create demand gen that search does not posses. As we shrink that ROI delta with creative technology and more accurate targeting it may indeed not be a better investment than search, but i believe it can become a more important one.


  5. Gab Goldenberg Avatar

    effectively reverse engineering the search experience into display’s near limitless inventory and producing higher ROI through lower display CPM than search CPC. One year later we are doing all of this with some amazing technologies supporting these endeavors. We are creating display ads to be off ramps to existing goal paths and on ramps to changed goals.
    Can you provide more detail on each of those sentences, Jon? For instance, How are you reverse engineering the search experience? Do you just mean matching landers to visitors’ intent (e.g. as per the kw/ad copy)?
    What technologies are you using?
    What’s this business about on/off ramps?


  6. Jonathan Mendez Avatar
    Jonathan Mendez

    Hi Gab,
    I’m actually talking about the work we’ve been doing at RAMP over the past year. I hope to see you at my session at SES NY where I will be sharing this work and providing the answers to all your questions. 🙂


  7. SEO Avatar

    What you wrote is good but can u pls change the image? Its really distrating and disturbing…


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