Google's Not Making You Stupid, It's Making You Obsolete!

  |  August 16, 2011   |  Comments

Are you setting yourself up to be a player in the future, or allowing your number to be a part of a growing story of a generation without perceived and ready opportunities?

In 2007, Mashable claimed that Google was making us dumber. In 2008, Nicholas Carr of The Atlantic went deeper, proclaiming that we were, as a society, becoming stupid in part due to the advancements of companies like Google. Carr was so moved by this belief that his cover story became the bases for "The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains." And now, in 2011, a team of researchers led by Betsy Sparrow of Columbia University has explored the cognitive effects of having Google at our fingertips.

All of the commentaries, both scientific and anecdotal in nature, explore the impact Google has on us as a society and whether or not our brains are being rewired for a new normal. That said, if given a choice of life with Google or without, I'm betting few people if any would say life was better before the search giant led the information organization and discovery revolution. But, if people are OK with a trade-off of individual wisdom for collective or artificial intelligence, would they be OK with the potentially more catastrophic impact Google is having on our world? That is, the rapid disintegration of the middleclass workforce and its impact of the labor community in our society for the future to come.

Technology continues to change our world, often for the better. Google and many other companies just like it, including Microsoft, Apple, and Cisco, to name a few, are continuing to evolve and advance what we can realize as a people through technology. At the same time, entire sectors of industry continue to struggle with how to handle the changing landscape. In the U.S., river towns gave way to rail, which saw a decline with the construction of a national highway system. We now find a digital superhighway changing our world. Personally, the upside is huge. Professionally, the risks are as great as the opportunity.

Last week, Apple passed Exxon Mobil briefly as the country's most valuable public company. Is this a staggering ascension? Not the least, because Apple currently has roughly 60 percent of the employee base of that of Exxon. In the advertising sector, you only need to look at the contrast between Google and some of the top marketing communications companies. WPP, the organization I work for, employs more than 146,000 people globally with revenues of more than £9 billion. By contrast, Google is on pace to generate more than $30 billion in 2011 with slightly less than 30,000 employees. These pressures extend to all sectors from automotive to retail as physical presence and headcount give way to virtual exposure and cloud power. Once mighty commerce businesses, companies like Circuit City, Borders, and Blockbuster, are now in the grave or circling the drain at the hand of a new era of commerce led by the likes of Amazon, Netflix, eBay, and Google.

The challenge at hand for every business and individual is to determine how to pivot into the modern realities of technology. It's no longer good enough to assume that the companies of tomorrow will have a place for the employees of today, because that's the way it has always been. Are Middle America and middle management destinations or stepping stones? If the American dream of realizing a better life than the generation before you is to be true at an individual level, there is little doubt that technology will play a key role.

But let's be clear. Technology cannot be realized without the people behind it. Google and Apple only make people, companies, and sectors obsolete if they cannot, or worse, choose not to invest in the talent necessary to evolve into the reality of where the market is heading. The question for employees in this generation and the next is - how will your education, professional training, and personal dedication drive your positioning? Are you setting yourself up to be a player in the future, or allowing your number to be a part of a growing story of a generation without perceived and ready opportunities?

If not then, when the postscript is written on a generation, it may cite that industries and opportunities were rendered useless by innovation and evolution. It will also note that personal evolution and a lack of willingness to change are also cause for extinction. So, back to the thought at hand; Google is making us obsolete only if we are too stupid to change and innovate at the pace necessary to keep up with the leading companies of this age and the next.



Chris Copeland

Chris Copeland is chief executive officer of GroupM Next, the forward-looking media innovation unit of GroupM. Chris is responsible for curating and communicating insight-focused media solutions across established and emerging platforms. Leveraging his multi-year experience with emerging media companies, Chris is tasked with stewarding GroupM Next in partnership with agency leadership from GroupM's four media marketing and marketing service agencies (Maxus, MEC, MediaCom, and Mindshare). The focus is participating with those companies leading changes that most impact consumer media consumption, brand favorability, and purchase behavior.

Guiding the Predictive Insights, Technology, Research, and Communications teams at GroupM Next, Chris is responsible for overseeing the amplification of insights into opportunities that directly benefit the business of GroupM agencies and their clients. GroupM is the world's largest media investment management group and the media holding arm of WPP. Together, GroupM agencies represent almost $30 billion in overall North American billings (RECMA).

Chris helped guide the development of GroupM Next, which was established to deliver the best thinking and new insights from within the GroupM community. The unit also focuses on technology innovation connecting all media channels, but especially, online, social, mobile, and addressable.

Chris was selected to lead GroupM Next after nine years of leading the search marketing practice within GroupM. Among his accomplishments are the development and integration of the global search marketing offering for GroupM agencies, GroupM Search, which managed $1.3 billion in search billings globally and grew to more than 1,000 search marketing strategists serving 40 countries. In 2009, Chris created the research division of GroupM Search and developed research studies that deepened the understanding of consumer behavior across search and social media for leading brands and garnered global traction - most notably: The Influenced: Social Media, Search, and the Interplay of Consideration and Consumption; The Virtuous Circle: The Role of Social Media in the Purchase Pathway;and From Intent to In-Store: Search's Role in the New Retail Shopper Profile.

Chris entered the digital industry in 1996 when he joined search marketing agency WGI (later acquired by Tempus Group). He has been with the WPP and GroupM family of companies since 2000 when, recognizing search as an emerging media channel with incredible potential for brands, WPP acquired Tempus Group and CIA, and ultimately rebranded the search marketing agency as Outrider. As senior partner and managing director of Outrider, Chris delivered on GroupM's vision for the channel, leading the organization to 500 percent growth with global presence over five years, and establishing award-winning search marketing strategies that have become industry-wide best practices. In 2002, Chris successfully implemented the integration of search into the cross-channel media planning process at MEC, creating the first search marketing practice to sit within a media communications and planning company. In 2007, he guided the business expansion of search marketing practices into all GroupM agencies. In 2009, Chris was named CEO of GroupM Search, where he was responsible for driving global search strategy for the organization, while fostering the innovative application of search as an integrated channel. In his role, Chris also provided digital strategy counsel for clients, including AT&T, Dell, Audi, Volkswagen, and more.

Chris is an active member on advisory boards at the 4A's, Google, Yahoo, MSN, and I-COM. He is a frequent speaker in global forums discussing the digital marketplace and how the space is evolving, and serves as a regular resource to national and industry press. Chris contributes editorial commentary regularly to Advertising Age, ClickZ, MediaPost, and In fall 2013, Chris was honored as an inductee into the ClickZ Digital Hall of Fame.

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