Read on for the full interview and Jen’s insights on how search can be used to inform business strategy, the challenges of automation, and the future of paid search.

Pete: Tell us a bit about your role, Jen?

Jen: My role is Search Director, Sr. Partner at Neo Media World in Los Angeles, which is a performance-led agency within Mindshare. I oversee paid search accounts between Neo and Mindshare LA. I lead a team of 7 across search strategy and business intelligence, as well as keeping the paid search machine rolling for our West Coast clients.

From search to business intelligence

Pete: What do you find most interesting about search?

Jen: Having a journalism background, I’m interested in the research aspect of SEM and ‘the why’ behind search behavior. Why are people searching for a certain product? Why is a keyword that is completely unrelated to a client’s business trending within their account? Search is the largest anonymous focus group; it’s the truth when it comes to user intent and mindset.

I’m very passionate about our approach to providing business intelligence through search and using it as a research tool to understand wider user behavior and enhance planning.

Pete: How does using search for research help clients?

Jen: We’re able to draw out insights from search data to inform a client’s business strategy. A client might have a preconceived belief that certain keywords are aligned with their products or that their customers will behave in a certain way. Search can sometimes reveal that a user’s mindset is actually quite different to what they initially thought.

We can then help the client adjust and go in a new direction to be more successful with their search strategy.

Automation vs. strategy

Pete: What are your most significant challenges in paid search?

Jen: Within our industry, we have to deal with constant change, such as the shifts that come with automation. Google is making a lot of their tools automated and easier to use so that, in theory, anyone can pick up and run a campaign. But if you don’t know how to use them in the first place, the tools are no good to you. Even so, in a world of increasing automation, we must ask ourselves: how will our roles evolve?

Automation has enabled us to provide immense value to clients in other areas. Because we’re now able to utilize automated tools for traditionally manual tasks such as bidding or ad copy, we can focus our time instead on providing strategic insights and business intelligence to deliver against a client’s business goals.

Looking ahead

Pete: How do you see the future of search?

Jen: In order to adjust to this ever-changing search world, our roles must blend tactical execution and strategic insights even more.

One question we always get from clients is ‘what are our competitors spending?’ But insight tools for media just don’t capture search at a granular level so we’ll need to explore how we get these learnings for our accounts in a way that’s helpful and actionable in the future. We partner with Adthena to get SEM-specific competitive insights to understand what a client’s competitors are doing, when a client should enter the bid auction, and when they should bow out.

Search is also a piece of a vast media puzzle. As we move toward more automation, our search marketers need to evolve to better understand how other channels fit into the media ecosystem. We need to be able to seamlessly integrate search with the other channels to achieve the best results at a holistic level, rather than keeping SEM in a silo.


Neo Media World is a digital-first global performance agency, focused on harnessing new media and technological capabilities to drive better results for clients.

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