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Google Buys Nest -- What Does It Mean?

  |  January 23, 2014   |  Comments

After CES, the tech world is buzzing with opinions about what the $3.2 billion acquisition means for Google's future -- but is it safe to speculate?

In case you were living under three electric blankets last week due to the Polar Vortex, you know CES took place. You know because everyone has published their opinion on what was important from their point of view. Depending on whom you ask, there were five to 12 trends you just have to understand, but only in paragraph consumable bites or in pretty slideshows designed for easy sharing.

And then, just when the dust is settling and people are getting back to what they really know how to do, Google goes and buys Nest for $3.2 billion. And suddenly all of the "experts" who told you the "Internet of Things" and the connected home were going to be big now have numbers to quantify and validate their expertise.

There's nothing especially bad about this behavior, except when the parlor games begin with trying to dissect why the deal happened and what it means. And the games have begun with Google and Nest.

Upon announcing the acquisition, Twitter was buzzing with the news. People were projecting how this move was about data and joking about ad serving based on your household temperature. One perspective I read suggested it was akin to Google investing $250 million in Uber to get traffic data, completely ignoring the work Google has been doing with autonomous cars and the more likely long-term play into that space, with delivery as the core.

The challenge with having an opinion is what I wrote about last month. Most opinions are inevitably formed by personal experience and bias. Those in the media industry want to explain away the Nest acquisition as an advertising-motivated purchase. They confuse an infrastructure purchase that will inherently come with data as one that will enable advertising to be easily overlaid.

It's certainly possible that Google, through Nest, could someday offer free smoke detectors and thermostats to individuals who saw an ad-supported model, but I would be lying to suggest that is more viable or planned than anything else written in the 48 hours immediately following a $3 billion acquisition.

As Microsoft, News Corp, and Yahoo have shown over the last decade, billion-dollar acquisitions with obvious media opportunities are not guaranteed predictors of future success. So for Google to spend this amount with a planned move into a non-core focus of the Nest business feels like a heavily biased suggestion.

Make no mistake, through Nest, Google will become more intelligent for consumers and how they organize their home life. Not dissimilar from how Google search and Google+ have given massive insights into how consumers want information organized for discovering relevant content online. But, to project anything more or suggest a deep insight into how this will ultimately turn into an advertising play is fraught with assumptions.


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 MediaBizBloggers.com. In fall 2013, Chris was honored as an inductee into the ClickZ Digital Hall of Fame.

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