in Online Advertising

What do big brands use for SEM bid management?

I’ve lost touch a little with the paid search bid management market since leaving Adobe. I thought it was time to see what’s going on, and which platforms the big advertisers are using.

A bit of digging into the HTML of the Google SERPs gives a good indication of what’s going on. Third party platforms use a 302 redirect to measure clicks from a paid search ad. It’s easy to spot in the code, but I created a Chrome extension to take some of the leg work out of it.

I’ve picked a list of 40 large UK advertisers from the finance and travel verticals. The list is based on my judgement, not external data. So feel free to shout if you think I’ve missed an obvious name out.

Finance advertisers

Aviva DS3
Axa Uk DS3
Barclays Kenshoo
Churchill Insurance DS3 Marin
Co-op DS3
Direct Line DS3
Go Compare DS3
Hiscox None
HSBC Atlas
Insure and Go None
Lloyds DS3
LV DS3 None Marin
More Than DS3
Nationwide DS3
Saga DS3
Tesco Bank Kenshoo
uSwitch None

Travel advertisers None
British Airways DS3
Expedia Kenshoo
First Choice DS3
Hilton DS3
Holiday Autos Kenshoo EMEA None
Icelolly DS3
Jet2 None
Monarch Adobe
On the Beach Limited None
Premier Inn Limited None None
Sykes Cottages Limited None
Thomas Cook Group DS3
Thomson Holidays DS3
Travel Republic None
Travelodge Kenshoo
Travelsupermarket Marin
Wyndham Adobe

A few notes on the data:

  1. I collected it at the start of the month, so it should be current.
  2. If you’re not au fait with SEM bid management platforms:
    • Adobe is Adobe Media Optimizer, part of the Adobe Marketing Cloud (and née Efficient Frontier).
    • Atlas is part of Facebook. I’m as surprised as you that they’re in this list. There isn’t (anymore) an Atlas product for search bid management. So I suppose HSBC are just using Atlas to track clicks, but use something to change bids etc.
    • DS3 is DoubleClick Search, part of the DoubleClick stack, wholly owned by Google.
    • Kenshoo is a privately owned advertising management platform that extends across search, social and display channels.
    • Marin is a publicly listed advertising management platform that also extends across search, social and display channels.
    • None doesn’t mean an advertiser has set their CPC bids to £5 and gone for an early lunch. There are lots of ways of managing search campaigns without using a full on 3rd party tech. Some of the very biggest advertisers build their own, others use the functionality with AdWords itself.
  3. Not all advertisers use a platform consistently. Saga uses DS3 for its car insurance campaigns, but not for travel insurance.
  4. Of course there’s a chart…

17 out of the 40 advertisers use DS3, with its leading prices integration with the rest of the DoubleClick stack. It’s rapidly becoming the default option for search advertisers. Although other platforms clearly have some landmark clients, I wonder how long it is before Google squeezes the life out of this market.

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