It’s been a few years since WPP Chairman Sir Martin Sorrell classified the relationship between Google and the agency world as “frenemies.” I actually had my first Google moment in 2003 when I worked with a company launching an AdSense competitor. I remember being really surprised to hear that a major publisher had passed on my client in order to partner with Google for contextual advertising. Couldn’t they see what was happening? It was clear to me then that regardless of the “Do No Evil” tag line, Google was growing in power and that everyone had to carefully watch the company’s actions.
I have been surprised that agencies have not done more to support Google’s competitors. If I were working at a digital ad agency, I’d want Microsoft and Yahoo! to provide viable alternatives to Google. I’d encourage my clients to shift a disproportionate share of their search budgets to these competing search solutions just to ensure that the search ecosystem would have competing search solutions.
As Google strengthens their position in display advertising through their acquisition of DoubleClick, Invite Media and now Admeld, I wonder if agencies shouldn’t be doing more to address the changing market dynamics.
Let me be clear – I have nothing against Google. It’s a great company and has developed some great products. And it has contributed a lot to the advancement of online advertising as a marketing vehicle. I personally think that Android is going to be a big winner for the company down the road.
But in the capitalist society in which we live, competition is good for business. And ultimately, a vibrant online advertising ecosystem will be good for Google, enabling them to focus on Apple, Facebook and Microsoft instead of visits from anti-trust lawyers and government officials.
So this is what I’d recommend to Google:
1. Tone down the direct marketer relationship rhetoric — Would it have killed anyone in Google’s PR department if the aforementioned press release would have been between Heineken and Heineken’s digital ad agency? Everyone knows you have the power and the data. There is no need to flaunt it.
2. Share more love — Google’s Crisis Response to the earthquake in Japan in March featuring Person Finder was brilliant. The best way for Google to show that they’re friends is to use their technology to do good. Google should look for more ways around the world and downtown to show us how they help the community.
What do you think Google should do?