PPC earth tremor – 50 evenings mildly disrupted

Earthquake - residential damage

Tonight was the promisingly named “PPC Earthquake” for Chinwag(#3). Each of these events has had an unusual noun appended to it (I suspect for searchability and Flickr tagging purposes), but this little bit of hyperbole was the most impressive and misleading to date. Unless they meant it would involve mindless destruction of my evening.

Putting aside the poor staging – constantly interupted by technical failures and squeeking doors – and the rude audience members carrying on conversations during the proceedings, our host for the evening Mike Butcher ranged between bored and aggressive as the pannelists (with the exception of Nigel Leggatt from Microsoft) said not very much at all about anything.

Considering the amount of general press and blog attention for the new Yahoo platform, the discussion tonight was fairly redundant as we cycled to the conclusion that the big three would scrap it out, unless…. er…. someone else came along to challenge them.

Mobile search might be interesting, but everyone agreed not quite yet. At one point someone in the audience said “shouldn’t we be more user-centred”, meaning – I think – why are the main engines not providing better user experiences (incidentally a point I would dispute, they’re all pretty bloody good from all the tests I’ve seen). But the point did have relevance tonight. Get someone to oil the door, fix the lights and apply electric shocks to the pannelists when they’re saying nothing. That would have been more centred around tonights poor ‘users’.

For what it’s worth, I think Chinwag, should either declare itself an industry event (i.e. about the structure of the industry and industry politics, and pick some really contentious industry debates – who’s best placed to do search, an open debate on advertiser funding etc.), or broaden the debates to cover something actually new, something outside the audience’s comfort zone.

I suspect their current mild ambivalence to matters of interest is caused by the need for a sponsor, although senior people from big mouth media (tonight’s sponsor) were noticably absent from the event. This is a particular shame since 10 minutes of Steve might have made all the difference.

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Comments

  1. As a former contract publisher, your post reads well but describes a different event to the one I attended. Perhaps that’s the difference between PR-fodder and real journalism. Apart from anything else, what did you expect from a panel about Pay Per Click advertising? A mud wrestling exhibition? I didn’t realise I looked bored – I will adopt the appearance of a Meerkat on Ritalin at future events. I’m sure you could have livened things up if you’d bothered to ask a question yourself, as you clearly have opinions. You might be better off saving your invective for Google and Yahoo! who despite several invitations decided not to appear, as we pointed out. However, thanks for the points about future topics, the staging and the doors – all of these are fixable. 😉

  2. Sorry I do apologize for the snideness (neither journalism nor PR I’m afraid – simply a poor sense of humor) and Mike’s quite right, I don’t have the right to criticize since I was there and could have got involved. But in terms of “What else did you expect from a panel about PPC advertising” I think that’s a little unreasonable.

    Obviously the mechanics of Panama, adCentre and AdWords are detailed and functional and may not interest those of us on the outskirts, but the subject matter itself couldn’t be more relevant or vibrant.

    PPC has gone from nowhere to 7 or 8% of the US and UK ad market in five years. In a very real sense, its effecting the way brands and consumers meet and is a harbinger for a very different commercial world. As per the economist thing I quoted the other day, there is a huge open question of why Google (or Yahoo or Microsoft) gets to take all the profit for the act of consumer handraising. And Privacy. Google may not be a danger in this area but they are certainly redefining it.

    And what about the banner, will that last, and for how long. Does advertiorial still work, what the effective rates between human driven content referal and systems driven? Consumer reactions to these tools, the long term effects of efficient markets for advertising on the model of product propositions.

    I’m sure it’s a question of expectations but I’d be great if these events were a little punchy I think – not mud wrestling so much as debate.

  3. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your write ups of Chinwag Live. It’s always good to hear the opinions and recommendations of people who come along to our events and I’m sorry we didn’t get to chat directly last night. Chinwag has been running online communities for aoens now, so we’re well-used to hosting critical debate.

    You’re gonna love the unusual noun in our next event. It’s not proper English and very naughty, but for reasons of “searchbility and Flickr tagging”??? Sheesh, if only we had the time to be so calculating! We just like our titles quirky and memorable, much like Brits like the punning headline as opposed to the AP style of plain headline writing prevalent in the US.

    Not all events we organise will appeal to everybody, and we’ve had quite a different crowd at each one so far, yourself excepted. You make quite a few points here that are worth discussing further, but I want to address three specifically.

    “Chinwag, should either declare itself an industry event (i.e. about the structure of the industry and industry politics, and pick some really contentious industry debates – who’s best placed to do search, an open debate on advertiser funding etc.), or broaden the debates to cover something actually new, something outside the audience’s comfort zone.”

    To be totally clear here, our events are not always going to be about things that are “contentious” or “actually new”. We are more concerned to facilitate useful and interesting discussions about issues that *matter* to the digital community and that people want to talk about. They may not always be thrilling or breaking new ground, although new trends and business challenges for the industry have been the focus of 2 out of 3 of our events so far.

    When I set up and ran the Beers & Innovation series in my previous role at NMK, innovation was the focus of every event. You should check these nights out if you haven’t already as they are still happening and might float your boat.

    In turn, I dispute your point about Chinwag’s “current mild ambivalence to matters of interest”. If the changes in the PPC field were not of interest, people wouldn’t have come to the event in the numbers they did. Our previous two events were also very topical and over-subscribed far in advance. Where then is the ambivalence?

    Finally, to suggest that our editorial independence as regards our events’ subject matter and speakers is in any way influenced by the sponsor is a fundamental error. There is no influence allowed and that is our policy. Other companies go that route, and there is a place for those events when the paid-for speaker and sponsor slots are made wholly transparent. However, this is not an approach we are pursuing. Our need for sponsors simply arises from the fact that our business model is based on advertising and sponsorship and our events must be revenue generating or we could not continue with them. So there’s no secret handshakes or insidious influencing I’m afraid.

    Anyway, can I just say, nifty use of images in your posts – especially the one of Janice from Friends for Mobile Metamorphosis 😉

  4. It’s a damn shame you didn’t ask those very good questions at the event. I do get a bit fed up with people when they say there was no debate but have not weighed-in themselves. I did my best to goad the odd panellist into saying something interesting but they all appeared to have done media training or something and seemed to give quite political answers. And BTW, I did actually ask a question about branding but it seemed to prompt a fairly technical repsonse. Not quite the ‘Economist level’ you were after I guess.

  5. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the post. It was shame Steve wasn’t there. I think he was in the Munich office, or Milan, or possibly New York! Okay. I give up. I’ve no idea where he was and I’m just glad I don’t have to manage his diary!

    I know I’m no Steve replacement (no one is!) but I was there as Head of Search. We had some senior paid search managers from the London office too.

    If there was another PPC Earthquake next year do you think we should sponsor that one?

  6. Thanks Andrew,

    sorry I didn’t say hello on the night and thanks for sponsoring the event. The reason I mentioned Steve was because he was the first person who showed me how fascinating search can be.

    If they run it again next year, I think you should speak at it!

    (You wouldn’t want to sponsor it anyway for fear that some poor idiot like me might think the topics were organised to make them attractive to sponsors).

    Tom

    PS: Are you doing these posts for search rankings 🙂

  7. Here’s someone who’s actually done the event justice and done a very intersting and detailed summary of the discussions: http://www.epiphanysolutions.co.uk/blog/ppc-earthquake-chinwag-event-in-london-last-night.html

  8. Hello Tom,
    I’m sure you could have livened things up if you’d bothered to ask a question yourself, as you clearly have opinions. You might be better off saving your invective for Google and Yahoo! who despite several invitations decided not to appear, as we pointed out. Thanks for the post.

Trackbacks

  1. […] So that’s my roundup of the PPC earthquake – any food for thought? I don’t claim to be a journalist or anything, just an online ranter. An alternative view and interesting discussion is taking place here. […]

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