30 Under 30 – Fil Lourenco

SEM account director, Catalyst Canada

MRKT07_30U3020What Fil Lourenco sees in search is a chess game between an advertiser and its competitors, a hotly contested arena where advertisers duke it out for the attention of their most high-value online audience: purchase intenders.

Take a campaign he worked on early in his career for the Mazda 3 model called “Pick a Fight.” Lourenco and his team at Catalyst Canada came up with the idea to “roadblock” search ads for competing cars like the Honda Civic and Volkswagen Jetta. They figured that by running double the number of ads against related search keywords, they could squeeze out competitors’ ads from car buyers search results.

The challenging part was coming up with a way to run multiple ads against the same keyword. Google doesn’t allow search advertisers to bid on two ad slots for the same website — so Lourenco’s team created a second microsite they could link to, where users could compare a Mazda model to the competing car they were initially searching for.

The campaign increased Mazda’s conversion rates by 200%, generated tens of millions of impressions and won a 2013 Media Innovation Award for search. But, perhaps the biggest sign of its success is that virtually every North American auto brand now uses the same tactic as a matter of course.

Back in 2013, Lourenco was the hands on the keyboard for creating the ads and executing the bids. Today he’s an account director, supervising a team of seven who handle Catalyst Canada’s largest financial and auto clients — HSBC and Ford. He’s received four promotions in the four years he’s been there, and it’s easy to see why — he’s deeply passionate about his craft, and says he has been since he was first introduced to it back when he took a post-grad degree in marketing.

His career is full of clever campaigns like the one for Mazda, driven by an insight about the brand, the product or the audience it’s targeted at — a bit of a rarity in search, where many marketers don’t bother with innovation so long as easy ROI is guaranteed. Catalyst handles HSBC’s search strategy for both Canada and the U.S., and has won multiple awards for campaigns Lourenco helped develop including Best in Class at the first ever U.S. Search Awards in 2013. That particular campaign was one of the first in the world to make use of fine-grained geotargeting, back in the days when that typically meant spraying ads across a city or zip code. Lourenco’s team came up with the idea to geofence specific airports, and target affluent businessmen with location-tailored financial ads while they were Googling on their smartphones and laptops from the airport lounge. Though campaign costs were in the low five digits, its cost-per-acquisition rate blew earlier benchmarks out of the water.

As a result of his groundbreaking work, Lourenco, 26, has been recognized both in Canada and internationally. In 2013, the same year Catalyst’s HSBC campaign dominated the U.S. Search Awards with four medal wins, the Awards named him Young Search Professional of the Year for all of North America. This year, he was nominated by the team he works with at Google for its Search Excellence Award, and was one of two Canadian individuals to receive it.

A lot of media planners still don’t recognize that search can be more than just a box to check off if you put the effort into it. But attitudes are changing, Lourenco says. Clients and media planners are a lot more educated about search than when he started four years ago. At Ford and HSBC, Catalyst has become a key partner with a seat at the table during media planning sessions. At industry awards shows like the MIAs, search awards have become commonplace, lending more credibility to the field.

For Lourenco, the international awards he’s won feel like vindication. “I feel like I’ve stepped out of the shadows,” he says. “All those hours were worth it.”

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