Google's Hot Breath on Ad Agencies' Necks

31 October 2006

PORTLAND, Oregon: Imagine you're Volvo's top US advertising executive, responsible for an ad budget of around $100 million (€78.59m; £52.72m). And you want to talk to an expert with new media savvy and empathy with a prime customer target group.

Who do you talk to? A creative boutique? An online hotshop? One of the specialist new media scions of Omnicom, WPP, Interpublic, Publicis and Havas?

None of these if you're Volvo's Linda Gangeri, who like those seeking Ralph Waldo Emerson's "better mousetrap", made "a beaten path to the door" of . . . Google.

Impressed by the Californian search titan's recent ingestion of YouTube [WARC News: 10-Oct-06] Gangeri cold-shouldered Madison Avenue's finest in the belief that she might find the "better mousetrap" at Google.

Volvo, whose image is more usually associated with the comfortable bourgeoisie, will next year launch a new model targeting the hip, twenty-something crowd - Googlers personified.

Jetting-in from the West Coast to Google's recently opened New York offices, Gangeri told the Googlistas: "This is a target we've never reached before and one you cannot reach via traditional marketing messages - they reject it. We look to you and challenge you, with Google being more of that young, targeted mind-set."

Patrick Keane, Google's director of product marketing, was in no mood to disagree with such dollar-dripping enthusiasm. Unable to believe his luck, he took up Gangieri's refrain.

"There's probably a false assumption in the marketplace that Google is a bunch of machines in Mountain View [California] and we don't have relationships like you might see at Conde Nast up the street or at ABC television," Keane responded.

Elsewhere, however, there was less enthusiasm. Timothy Hanlon who, as svp of Publicis Groupe's Denuo new-media consulting division, bestrides the gap between old and new media, assessed the Google incursion.

"They're trying to take the DNA of search marketing and apply it to other kinds of advertising," he said, adding that the larger dollar-pot in traditional "brand-marketing budgets" is a natural target for Google.

While Jason Clement, associate director of search engine marketing at Aegis Group's Carat Fusion, was in counter attack mode: "The scariest thing about Google is they don't know what they don't know.

"There's a difference between a Harvard [graduate] mathematician and someone who's been selling ads for twenty years. The mathematician is smarter, but if you want Coca-Cola's dollars, the guy selling billboards for twenty years is the one you want."

Surveying the upcoming Battle Royal, observers of the media scene predict that few prisoners will be taken.

Data sourced from Washington Post Online; additional content by WARC staff