LONDON: Sir Martin Sorrell (pictured), it seems, no longer regards Google as a 'frenemy', a term he coined in the summer of last year to describe the search Goliath's schizoid role, both as a friend and an enemy of ad agencies.

On the basis of 'if you can't beat them, join them', WPP Group has united with Google to fund a three-year $4.6 million (€3.69m; £2.95m) grant programme to support research into how online media influence consumers' behaviour, attitudes and decision making.

Their respective clients will be invited to provide case studies and data for research conducted by the programme's grant recipients.

Oversight of the programme is delegated to a committee led by Professor John Quelch, senior associate dean of Harvard Business School and a non-executive director of WPP.

Other members include Professor Glen Urban, former dean of the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Dr Hal Varian, Google's chief economist.

According to the latter: "We want to encourage more research about how online and offline media work together to influence consumer choices.

"We think that such research will contribute to more effective and more measurable advertising performance. I'm excited that we're teaming up with WPP to fund these activities."

Reciprocally euphoric was Mark Read, chief executive of WPP Digital and the group's director of strategy: "We are thrilled to join Google in supporting this research program.

"The industry, our clients and our companies will benefit from the application of some of the world's finest academic research minds into how online media influences consumers.

"The digital age raises many complex and critically important questions for marketers and media owners. The meshing of the business and academic worlds puts us on the path to providing robust answers."

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff