Google, Publicis: A Partnership Blooms

When Google and Publicis announced in January they had forged a relationship, the arrangement was light on details.

Today, participants at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Mixx conference got a little more insight into the partnership at a session featuring Tim Armstrong, Google’s president of advertising and commerce, North America, and David Kenny, managing partner of VivaKi, Publicis Groupe’s division which includes the digital and media assets of Digitas, Starcom MediaVest Group, and more.

Publicis, for its part, is seeing a larger share of its business devoted to digital advertising. It aims to get 50 percent of its revenue from digital and emerging markets by 2010, according to its 2007 annual report.

Asked how Publicis is measuring its success from the venture, Kenny said: “I’m accountable for making us more efficient and effective.” And, he added, that includes taking costs out of advertising, while increasing clients’ revenue and market share.

With that in mind, the two discussed five things driving the Publicis-Google relationship.

Fostering Collaboration

In tough economic times, Kenny said his firm’s clients are looking for change. “Most of our clients are asking for brand new solutions for the way they go to market,” he said.

To accomplish that, Publicis figured it couldn’t do that on its own. Thus, the partnership with Google was forged.

So why Google? “We need to have a different way of working with media partners. And Google was the most forward-thinking in the way they want to work with us,” Kenny said.

For Google’s part, Publicis offers the Mountain View, CA, company with “a global view of where things are going,” Armstrong said.

Reducing Complexity in Media Buying

At Publicis, Kenny said his organization is interested in streamlining the complex process for planning and managing advertising campaigns across multiple platforms and properties.

He pointed out that agency work is labor intensive, taking 44,000 people to help place $50 billion worth of advertising. “That’s 100 euros or 150 dollars per person, per year to do that,” Kenny said. “We need to find a way to be less people intensive. A lot of that work isn’t very interesting.” That includes, he said, standing by a fax machine, waiting for an insertion order to arrive.

“We all hoped the digital revolution would automate things. In reality, it got worse. We’re faced with thousands of different ad units. We work in 170 countries. It’s a massively complex machine,” Kenny said. Google, in the partnership, sent employees to Publicis offices to see how things are done and to offer suggestions to improve and streamline processes.

Bridging the Talent Gap

Kenny said the shift to digital brings a push for understanding analytics. “It’s going to take more training,” he acknowledged.

On another front, Google and Publicis have arranged for employees to share jobs, though the executives did not disclose the number of employees participating.

Moving into Mobile

Google is testing ads on YouTube for mobile devices. As a result of the Google-Publicis partnership, five of the eight trial advertisers are Publicis clients.

Discussing mobile advertising in general, Kenny said it’s evolving as part of an integrated marketing play. “We’re seeing mobile work. It’s here now. But too many think of mobile by itself,” he said. “Mobile works well in partnership with other media.”

Armstrong, however, didn’t discuss Google’s work on its mobile device operating system called Android, which has been in the works for well over a year. There is speculation that Google will reveal more details about Android during Advertising Week.

Playing in Social

While Kenny and Armstrong listed social media as one area driving the partnership, neither provided any details on what they are doing on this front.

Kenny expects that social media will drive brands to the Web, including those that had viewed online advertising better suited for direct marketing.