For the third time in four years, MediaPost crowned Merkle the Search Agency of the Year. In a year rife with challenges and uncertainty, this award was particularly meaningful because it recognized both Merkle’s and our clients’ abilities to adjust to and thrive within an ever-changing environment. We are honored to have been chosen from a pool of outstanding finalists and are excited to accept the award on behalf of all the clients and employees that truly drove Merkle’s excellence in search.
As Laurie Sullivan notes, the core pieces that pushed Merkle ahead of the competition for the award were forward thinking, innovation, diversity, and data. These areas have always been foundational for our search practice but received renewed focus this year in a volatile climate.
Innovation and Data: Using Real-Time Insights to Capitalize on Changing Landscapes
At the start of 2020, Merkle was already leaning into real-time optimization through automation. We fully embraced machine-learning-based bid technology to capitalize on consumer demand shifts and user-level preferences in search. We also opened the year making great strides on better understanding the Shopping landscape with our proprietary tool, Merkle InSight. Merkle InSight enables retailers to see valuable trends in pricing, product-to-query matching, and competitor offerings that are not available through other tools. As highlighted by Matt Mierzejewski, Senior Vice President and search capability lead at Merkle, “We developed the product to close a gap in the marketplace — understanding the dynamics of search listings and how they work together and change, according to Google, across desktop and mobile.” These insights enable retailers to not only adjust their Shopping strategies, but pricing and promotional strategies as well.
When the pandemic struck the US in March, our foundational focus on innovation and data primed us to continue managing search nimbly and effectively. We quickly realized that we could use our robust data sets and analytical capabilities to help businesses understand changes in the economic landscape. Using that data, we created COVID-19 Market Impact Dashboards, interactive dashboards to inform marketing engagement strategies based on COVID-19 impact, consumer behaviors, discretionary spending power, and Merkle’s Economic Resilience Index (ERI). We also started biweekly COVID-19 newsletters, highlighting recent major stories that could impact our clients’ businesses.
Diversity: Revisiting Existing Efforts and Holding Ourselves Accountable
As we reached mid-year, we took a serious look at Merkle’s diversity and inclusion initiatives after the killing of George Floyd and the calls for racial justice that followed. While we were proud of the work happening through our cross-functional DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) pillars, we knew we needed to accelerate our efforts toward creating a more diverse workplace. We audited our current diversity efforts and realigned our evaluation criteria to hold ourselves more accountable to improving representation in our workforce. To oversee all new and existing efforts, we created a new position, Global Chief Equity Officer, and promoted DEI champion Kirt Morris into the role. For the first time, Merkle as an organization observed Juneteenth as a holiday, closing our offices and encouraging employees to reflect on and learn about racial injustice across the US.
Thinking Ahead: A New Way of Forging Search Partnerships
Throughout the year we grew an entirely new way to partner with clients on search with Performance Marketing Lab (PML). PML is a dedicated, innovative team of experts who partner with brands looking to take their digital marketing programs to the next level. It is a team built from Merkle’s Media, Performance Analytics, Measurement, and Data Science teams working together to advance marketing utility, CRM segmentation, and activation through productized solutions. This group’s work supports advanced, strategic, and highly technical work and often supports advertisers who have in-house marketing teams that are not looking for activation support, but rather strategic guidance and advanced, multi-channel digital projects, such as customer segmentation and omni-channel attribution. We saw an unmet need in the marketplace to evolve beyond search activation to support clients in elevating their search programs as part of the bigger digital picture.
As we reflect back, what differentiated our search agency in 2020 was our ability to use innovation, data, and forward thinking to evolve the way we met our clients’ needs. We adjusted to COVID-19 nimbly through real-time bidding. We used our analytic chops to help clients navigate uncertain waters and understand the Shopping landscape. We accelerated our efforts to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce, bringing broader perspectives and richer experiences to our company. And we built the Performance Marketing Lab to partner with clients more holistically.
Underlying all of this success, of course, are the clients and employees that owned execution day in and day out, bringing ideas and data to life. For your perseverance, flexibility, and partnership through tumult, homeschooling, video call interruptions, and more, we offer a huge, resounding – THANK YOU. We hope you’re as proud of this award as we are, and look forward to an exciting year ahead!