Madison Avenue Sweats as Google Eyes Agencies' Patch

01 November 2005

The transformation of laid-back Californian dudes Sergey Brin and Larry Page, into card-carrying capitalists is all but complete.

Google's ex-student founding duo, now multibillionaire owners of America's largest listed company by market value, have fallen prey to grabititus - a Wall Street-carried virus of even gretaer virulence than avian flu.

Not content will making a killing from its wildly successful online ad placement business, Google is now reportedly eyeing a move into traditional media buying.

And although Google's precise plans remain fogbound, it is clear it has ambitions to extend its 'pay-per-click' 'search expertise into traditional media.

Within recent months Google has purchased ad pages in two technology magazines, making the space available to some of its online advertisers. It has also indicated it is mulling the extension of its ad placement services to other media sectors including, possibly, TV.

Although Brin told investors last month that the magazine-ad deals were merely a trial run, he causally let it be known that "hundreds of other publications have expressed interest in participating."

Response measurement for billing purposes could, for example, be via toll-free-phone numbers featured in Google-placed print ads, thereby enabling advertisers to gauge the success of their ads - and pay accordingly.

Google, meantime, is zip-lipped as to further specifics of the magazine "test" or any other ad brokering activities it might be mulling..

Unsurprisingly, beads of sweat are beginning to form on Madison Avenue's collective brow. Admits David Cohen, interactive media director at Universal McCann: "The immediate, knee-jerk reaction" is that Google is "encroaching upon what is considered sacred turf."

And Carat Fusion vp of search and affiliate marketing Jeremy Cornfeldt counsels: "Anything that Google is doing, people definitely have to be watching. They are pioneers. They have deep pockets, and are looking to expand their success.

"If they do start to become a bigger player, we are going to need to understand what their intentions are. Are their intentions to go directly to clients, or are they going to want to work with agencies?"

An earthier response is offered by Andrew Swinand, evp at Starcom USA. Google's project, he says, so far seems like "the equivalent of selling media like manure, and everyone gets a shovelful."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff