Cricket and a broken window: how search engine advertising can be remarkable

[image credit: Getty Images]Broken window at Lord's Cricket pavillionI think I owe Lee Williams a beer or two as this is the second consecutive blog post I’ve written from a tip-off he passed my way. And this time, we’re talking about pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on search engines…

Every marketer wants their brand and web site to appear high up in the SERP (search engine results page) when a user searches for a relevant keywords. Most often this means compiling a lengthy list of relevant terms then optimising your website against these (known as SEO, search engine optimisation) as well as, if budgets permit, buy PPC ads against these keywords.

That’s fine, but sometimes a little imagination and creativity can go a long way too.

When England cricket player, Matt Prior, accidentally broke a window in the Lord’s pavillion during a test match against Sri Lanka, marketing agency Dare spotted an opportunity for their client B&Q, a home improvements superstore.

So, when thousands of cricket fans heard the news about the broken window and headed off to their search engine to find out what happened, here’s what they saw in response to a search for Matt Prior:

Search results for Matt Prior

I love seeing this kind of guerrilla marketing. Buying ads against the keywords “Matt Prior” is clever and very cheap. A quick check on Google AdWords confirms that there is, unsurprisingly, no competition whatsoever for these keywords and with 2,900 monthly searches there’s a good amount of traffic to go after. Conversely, there’s much more competition for keywords like “broken window” because every glazier and hardware shop wants a piece of that action meaning the price you pay for a click on a prominent ad will be much higher:

How search volumes compare

But will B&Q get any return from this investment? The truth is probably not, in a direct sense at least. People interested in Matt Prior’s window smash are highly unlikely to need any new windows themselves right now. But what this type of activity does do is help boost B&Q’s notoriety and reinforce their position as a great place to buy DIY materials. By cleverly associating themselves with a high profile cricket incident, B&Q demonstrates that they are interested in cricket (even if at the most superficial level) and cricket lovers who spot this association are more likely to think of B&Q next time they need DIY supplies. Who knows, some might even remember that window they’ve been meaning to fix and pop in on their way home after a hard day watching the cricket in the office 😉

Opportunities like this can present themselves at any time. I recommend keeping back a small slush fund in the online marketing budget so you can jump on topical events at a moment’s notice. And don’t think this type of work is only for the big boys like B&Q; small and medium businesses who operate at a local level or in specialist fields have equal opportunity to exploit trending topics online, perhaps even greater opportunity. The prizes, as always, go to the marketers who think quickest and have the courage to experiment boldly.