Editor's Note: Media and search planners possess a wealth of industry knowledge. Our ongoing "Meet a Media Planner" series aims to open them up and get a peek at the information and insights they keep under their hats. Today, we’re talking with Ira Kates, an account supervisor and search lead for Maxus Search in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Ira worked as a chef for about a decade before leaving the kitchen and entering online advertising. He went back to school, and after a fortuitous meeting with the CEO of Catalyst---Maxus’ in-house search practice---Ira was recruited as an account coordinator for sister agency, Mindshare. From there he moved over to Maxus and moved up to his current role in just three years. He currently oversees search strategy for clients including Mazda, HSBC, NBC Universal, and Little Caesars.
Yahoo! Ad Blog: Are there any ways your time as a chef has served you in your search-planning career?
Ira Kates: First off, being a chef gave me a good work ethic. I didn’t have a weekend off in almost 10 years. I was running a kitchen at age 20, so I learned very early how to deal with different personalities and how to take lumps and move on. That’s come in handy more than a few times when there have been client issues or the client has come to us and said, “My website traffic is down,” or “Conversions are down,” or “I need to get more people to my site to sell more cars or mortgages.”
When you’re cooking a steak for somebody, they expect it to be served the way they asked for it. When you’re doing a media strategy for a client, they expect it to be created the way they asked. A media strategy is just like a medium rare filet.
YAB: What are some of the biggest challenges you encounter working in search?
IK: One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome was getting digital and traditional planners to understand what search will actually do for clients. Fortunately, we’ve been able to sell that through and now search is a fundamental pillar of most of our plans.
We used search to launch the 2013 CX-5 and Mazda6 over Super Bowl weekend. When everybody was searching online for the new commercials, and our competition was spending millions of dollars producing TV ads, we were using early-awareness search to generate hundreds of thousands of video views, plus on-site conversions. We had people go from viewing a video to signing up for a test drive or building and pricing a car.
YAB: Sounds like search does a lot more than most people realize.
IK: Yes. The main benefit of search is that it captures consumer intent. Digital display and TV are phenomenal for sparking that moment when people decide they want to buy a car or sign up for a premier bank account. But where do they go from there? They go to a search engine. And when they’re entering their query, they’re putting their hand up, expressing intent, saying, “Please business, talk to me.”
YAB: So it’s very targeted, action-oriented, and close to the customer’s decision point.
IK: Right. And you don’t have a lot of space to talk. You only have 130 characters. That’s less space than a Tweet, so we really try to write different creative. We’ll look at competitors, and if there are too many competitors saying the exact same thing, we’ll say something completely different. And we get targeted enough to get into the searchers’ heads. That’s really one of the big powers of search---if you put work into it, it’s dynamic advertising customized to the individual.
YAB: What do you do to escape from the job when things get stressful?
IK: I still love cooking. And lately I’ve gotten into sculpting. My fiancée and I have gone to Paris the past two years, and during our last trip, we went to a Rodin Museum. I found myself wandering around thinking about the sculptures and how they can express so much. So I decided to try sculpting. I find it really relaxing.
YAB: Wow! I wonder what your next vacation might inspire.
IK: Well, the next trip I’m taking is with Jeff Lancaster---the CEO of Catalyst. We’re speaking at Pubcon in New Orleans in late April. So if anyone reading this wants to be inspired by us, stop by and say hi!