Is search sexy enough to warrant an IAB council?

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 7 February 2017

There's a tech, mobile, video, measurement, audio and even a recent affiliate council was launched with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Australia, but still no search council.

The PwC Australian Entertainment and Media Outlook Report states search will continue to be the dominant internet advertising rising to nearly $4 billion by 2019, yet one the industry's key watchdogs doesn’t back the medium with an official. Should it be better represented considering how much budget flows through search, or is it just not sexy enough?

Gary Nissim, MD at digital marketing agency Indago Digital, which has a strong focus on search marketing, says he's “deeply passionate about the medium” and questions how the IAB can represent Australia’s digital marketing landscape when there is no search council.

“Search is the most heavily invested in of all digital channels, as published by their own data so I’m glad that you’ve picked it up as a weakness. I have previously petitioned the IAB to set up a search council with no luck,” Nissim says.

Nissim says a search council should be in line with the other channels the IAB represents and their four core objectives which include being the 'big tent' for the entire digital advertising industry and define the future of digital advertising.

But is it sexy enough?

Managing director at IPG's digital experience agency Reprise, Ale Vendramin, says search is critical to marketing and will continue to be for as long as people remain curious and that council to ensure marketers maximise this discipline would be welcome.

“Search is incredibly sexy, especially for all the marketers who see the millions, or billions, of dollars it drives to their businesses, Vendramin says.

“The council could help marketers keep up with the latest and best understanding of consumer behaviour and how people use new tools and technology to search for what they want, where they want and how they want it. The curiosity is there, and when people are curious they search.”

Nissim agrees with Vendramin. “ There is no sexier medium to my mind – it’s all encompassing and includes; video, mobile, display, local and search itself. It’s ever changing, highly complex and still provides an excellent ROI,” Nissim says.

Not healthy to have Google only

As Google is such a dominant force in the search space, with a strong voice and huge monopoly on data, many argue that more varied voices are needed. Several years ago the European Commission ran an inquiry into Google’s search monopoly and started interrogating its dominance of search. At the time, Google controled more than 90% of the search market in Europe.

General manager of VIC, WA and product at Dentsu-owned Columbus Graham Wilkinson, says he finds it surprising that in a country that is well known for its technology adoption and subsequently its marketing/media technology and platform adoption, that search as a discipline doesn’t have broader representation in an organisation like the IAB.

“Because Google has such enormous market share in Australia, and quite rightly as its product is exceptional, it isn’t healthy for the search representation within IAB to only be from them,” Wilkinson says.

“Search is definitely sexy enough to warrant representation within the IAB however the agency search industry as a whole in Australia is guilty of not sitting forward in broader digital conversations and lending its expertise. When this is combined with Google’s drive to make its advertising options easily accessible, it results in the perception that it’s relatively easy to find, train or more often than not become a search expert.”

A big opportunity to showcase search

General manager of NSW, QLD and operations also at Columbus, Mitchell McBeath, says a council backed by the IAB would help to drive the industry to achieve its full potential and equally address some perceptions surrounding it. Specifically when it comes to discussing best practice, commercial models, technology and talent.

“For me, the purpose of this council wouldn’t be to promote growth of search ad spend but to really drive greater quality, accountability and expertise across the board,” McBeath says.

“There is a wealth of amazing digital expertise contained within the search community, it just needs some help to unlock it.”

He says Columbus wants to see search being recognised and the importance of the data it can extract, ultimately influencing and informing bigger marketing decisions within industry bodies.

“We see a big opportunity in showcasing search as a bigger player in driving industry body decisions and their direction in 2017 and beyond.”

No surprises in search marketing

National head of paid search at Omnicom-owned Resolution Media, Benton Goodbrand, says he's not surprised there is no search council and doesn't think one is really needed as “there aren’t that many surprises in search engine marketing (SEM) these days”.

“Sexy… I can’t say SEM has every been called sexy. Personally I love it but I would need to see the type of topics/initiatives the other councils have done to honestly say if one was needed,” Goodbrand says.

“With my eight years in SEM, I can’t say I’ve really come across any impact from previous SEM councils.”

Challenge accepted

AdNews put the question to IAB CEO Vijay Solanki about creating a search council and put simply, he says so far, since joining in June 2016, he has not felt the demand from the industry. Frankly, there are bigger fish to fry, namely transparency, measurement, ad fraud and viewability.

He says in more than 100 one-to-one sessions he has had since starting his role it has maybe come up once.

“The UK is very active in this area and I think the US too, but the long and short of it is that there has not been the demand for it as yet,” Solanki says.

“There is no question that it is a significant channel of ad spend and that it's an evolving and dynamic area, but we just haven't been made aware of the demand.

“If people in the market want this then I am all ears and people know where my door is.”

Following the arrival of the IAB Australia’s Affiliate Marketing Working Group last year, which coincided with the launch of the first affiliate industry handbook for the Australian market, scores of industry folk flocked to the IAB site to download the document. Solanki said the handbook is one of the most downloaded handbooks of 2016, which is “impressive” given it only launched on 20 October. T

The Affiliate Marketing Council was created after people working within affiliate reached out to the IAB to stress there was a huge demand for such a group. Want more on affiliate? For more: Ad Tech 101: Performance Marketing.

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

Read more about these related brands, agencies and people

comments powered by Disqus