Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Will Agencies 'Friend' Google?
By Joe Marchese
You can tell a lot about people by the friends they keep. So what does it say about Google that it really want to make friends with agencies? As the company looks for new ways to warm up to agencies, including stuffing them with sweets, the question remains: Will agencies come around to a world in which their sacred client/agency relationships include Google?
In a recent New York Times piece, "Googling in person to make friends," Stephanie Clifford notes that Google strategists are not waiting around hoping agencies come to them. The Campus@ program attempts to bring the Google experience to the agency. While this seems all well and good, one has to wonder how Google has gotten to the point that this elaborate dog-and-pony show is necessary. Google changed marketing forever by offering a better tool (really Goto did it, then Google did it better, but that's neither here nor there). Agencies didn't want to get into the low-margin search game in the beginning, but now you can't walk around a major holding company without tripping over that holding company's growing search marketing division. Google became the standard because it built the standard, not because it sold the standard.
Google may well be building the best planning and measurement tool the marketing world has ever seen, if that's the case, should it be necessary to be friends? It really comes down to two options: 1. Google hasn't built a remarkably better ad tool...yet. 2. Agencies are resisting change due to fears of the potential future competitive threat Google represents.
The answer is certainly a little bit of both, but right now likely a lot more of 1 than it is of 2. Let's be honest; when it comes down to it, it's not about friends, because, to barrow another favorite adage, it's not personal, it's business. When Google introduces a tool that gives a significant competitive advantage to its partners, it won't matter if agencies and Google are best friends, or if Google stole the agencies' dates to the senior prom so agencies hate Google. The agencies and Google will work together because it's business, not personal.
The agencies that don't leverage the better tool set offered by Google will slowly lose those coveted clients -- not to Google, but to other agencies. That's why the whole "agencies don't like Google" theme doesn't really matter that much, even if it is true. What is true is that Google has yet to build an offering the agencies can't refuse (on a Godfather roll today). And it is true that part of what is slowing that process down is agencies' skepticism of Google's intentions, but eventually that part won't matter.
Either Google will build the standard in media buying or it won't, and if it does, then friend, enemy, frienemy, froe, or what every agency and Google are at the time, it won't matter. But if you get a chance to have Campus@ come by your agency, invite me over for a gelato!
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Joe Marchese is President of socialvibe.
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