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It’s time to reveal the finalists for The Drum Search Awards USA 2018.

This year the judging panel, including industry experts from Microsoft, Elite SEM and Acronym, were challenged by the number of great entries. As search is maturing, senior manager of global engagement at Microsoft, Purna Virji, is increasingly seeing a trend where it becomes a success factor across multiple different channels, like TV advertising, PR and branding, to broadly impact the overall business goals.

She said: “I’ve seen several examples of really clever strategies of search marketers broadening their scope, which is heartening to see. Another key trend is the focus on personalization and relevance. As AI has gotten more powerful, so too have targeting capabilities. We see marketing using this data much more effectively to personalize and tailor their campaigns to provide more engaging experiences.”

For Acronym’s executive vice president of global strategy, Daniel Olduck, interesting strategies with audiences came up a few times. “Agencies are getting better at having actionable approaches to audiences beyond just looking at the data which was the case a few years ago,” he explained. “But many approaches were the same and some are still not pushing the boundaries far enough given the new opportunities in the engines.

The finalists for Best Use of Search - Retail/E-commerce Campaign are: Adtaxi for Getting into the Swing of Things, Crealytics for Urban Outfitters, Croud for Vestiaire Collective, Elite SEM for Big 5, Go Fish Digital for Promo Codes for You, Merkle, Inc. for Streetwater, Rise Interactive for Follett Higher Education, Search Laboratory Inc. for Revolve and SYZYGY for Keen Footwear.

Another category that stood out with the judges was the Best Use of Search - Travel/Leisure/Sports Campaign. These entries were proof of just how powerful search marketing can be, and how search is a level playing field. Virji said: “Several of the judges were praising the depth of research, and the high level of strategy shown for campaigns with a budget of just a few hundred dollars a month— they were better thought out than most multi-million dollar campaigns.

The finalists for Best Use of Search - Travel/Leisure/Sports Campaign are: Acronym for Accor Hotels, Adtaxi for Fiji Airways, Croud for TickPick, MullenLowe Mediahub for Jetblue, PMG for SEM Innovation Leads to Business Transformation and ZOG Digital for Wyndham Vacation Rentals.

A full list of the finalists can be viewed here. Tickets can now be purchased for the awards ceremony which will take place at the Edison Ballroom, New York on November 14.

Sponsors of these awards are Sempo and Acronym.