Google Gives Agencies Some Love, Part 1

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending Google’s Think Agency event in New York. The event is targeted to agencies to discuss how we can all work (spend more money) better together. The event was nice, and for the first time in a while, I feel as though Google is trying to work more closely with agencies.

General Observations

If you’ve been to Google’s New York offices, you know there are two buildings. One includes the famous cafeteria, museum of old computers, and theater-style auditoriums…then there’s the other one. We were in the other one. The food spread for us was moderate – and I came to the realization that honeydew and watermelon are at the bottom of the fruit-salad food chain. More than one person commented that, just a few feet from where we were meeting, there was a room filled with high-end tropical fruits. Interestingly, the lamer, melon-based fruit salad followed us from breakfast to lunch to the 3 p.m. snack time.

I kind of feel bad for Google because it is a victim of its reputation. You hear about the amazing food, so you expect every interaction to be filled with five-star meals. This may sound petty, but you have to think about it from the agency’s perspective. For the past three years, the service and strategy has gotten worse, while Google continues to attempt to sell its new services (the word “YouTube” was mentioned nine times in the opening monologue) without including us. Additionally, it creates “innovations” without any input from agencies that would actually help it (i.e., Sidewiki, Buzz, etc.). When this dynamic occurs, it puts us on the defensive, and then we look at every action with a jaded eye.

A True Partnership

One thing that was clear is that Google seems committed to repairing this perception that it is going around us. Recently, Google has acted as though the tools for search management are so easy that it doesn’t need service agencies. The reality is that this world is evolving too quickly, and sadly, clients are not fully on board with search. Couple that with the fact that there is more to search than just Google and we are talking about a much more complex challenge. In order to grow the industry, we need Google’s help with providing top-notch service and strategy, as well as helping us stay ahead of policy and interface changes.

It appears that Google is starting to understand this. After all, it is 2010, so nailing your agency strategy is probably a good thing. The first step in the right direction is the hiring of Torrence Boone to head up agency relations. He has an agency background (Avenue A and Digitas) and comes from a belief that in order for Google to grow its other products, it needs to work better with agencies. During the event, when I asked a group of product developers how they work with sales, there were several blank stares. Torrence explained that my question is just one reason he was hired. I spent some additional time with him and was very pleased with the conversation.

I’m a sales person by nature, so while I believe he’s committed, I know he has to tow some level of the company line. My hope (and challenge) is that Mr. Boone will live up to this commitment.

The blame here can’t be placed solely at the feet of Google. Agencies are always worried about publishers going direct. We need to stop. Sometimes you need someone else to push your agenda. If Google can help guide your clients into the areas you’ve been trying to get them to go, use it. So that’s my commitment to Google, as well as all publishers – if you include us in your discussions, betas, and brainstorms, I will help you. Because, in the end, my goal is to keep my clients moving forward.

Why the Change?

Despite the fact that it is steeped in search, Google understands that in order to get even bigger it needs to branch out into more than just search. However, it’s Google, and search funds everything. Google is very much like Microsoft in that way. Microsoft can burn – I mean, invest – $6 billion for aQuantive and other Internet ventures because they have over 80 percent of the OS market. This means that as they try and grow into a variety of non-search areas, retargeting, mobile, GCN, ADX, etc. are a far cry from organizing the world’s information and puts it in a position of not being the leader. Google understands that it is not a slam-dunk for non-search products, and therefore needs to entice us with new extensions and ways to integrate them into our accounts.

This is why we are seeing a wave of innovation from Google that starts with search, but that broadens into those other arenas. In part two, I will provide more of a breakdown of some of these innovations and what they mean for advertisers.

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