Google Is Not The Enemy

Marc E. Babej counters Scott Donaton’s rant on Google, and the need for media agencies to “stop complaining and start competing.”

Media agency complacency is neither here nor there, and it’s not the issue. Donaton misses the larger point – that Google is out of any media agency’s league, for three reasons. First, as the owner of one of the most comprehensive repositories of behavioral and contextual data in existence, Google enjoys a tremendous competitive advantage when it comes to serving targeted advertising. Second, as Google is about to demonstrate, this advantage can be leveraged beyond the Internet, to other media. Third, a battle for scale and scope is also a battle of resources; and with a market cap of $110 billion (compared to Omnicom’s 15 billion), Google’s resources are larger by several orders of scale than those of any advertising industry competitor.

It remains to be seen whether Google’s targeted text-based ads which have served them so well in the online environment will work on TV. Or if that’s even what they have planned for TV. Whatever the case, Google is not the enemy. Dogged resistance to change is the enemy.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. David –
    I’d also doubt that text-based ads would work well on TV. Rather, we’d be talking about drastically improved targeting for “regular” sight-sound-motion ads, based on a viewer’s Google usage on the Internet. For more, see…
    this post.

  2. Thanks Marc. This is a confusing issue, for me at least.
    For instance, maybe someone can explain why Google’s improved targeting is a threat to media buyers. It seems to me like they’re making media buying easier.
    Forget TV for a moment. Online media buys today obviously need to include the purchase of keywords from Google as one solution. But how does that devalue, or threaten, media buyers?

  3. David,
    I think you answered your own question about why media buyers feel threatened by improved targeting.
    It makes it easier.
    Remove the mystery from any industry and the people on the inside get paranoid.
    Look at the creative side. I’m a Mac nut, but they’ve taken away any mystery from the work of creatives. When everyone stopped doing things like building mechanicals for print ads and started doing things like editing in Final Cut, clients could peek behind the curtain. All of a sudden, it didn’t look so hard.
    Some agencies were in business simply because they had the keys to the process. Tougher to do these days.

  4. Sure, if a firm’s entire media plan consisted exclusively of Google AdWords, then I can see the concern. But that seems pretty far fetched. And even then, I believe most clients will still want someone to handle it for them.
    The way to go is to learn how to maximize return in this realm, then offer that “proprietary” knowledge, much like Search Engine Optimization is offered. Hold it, I’m starting to sound like Donaton. I better check myself.

  5. Hey David,
    Maybe the lesson here—whether you’re in media or on the creative side—is to get paid for your talent and knowledge versus simply getting paid as a middle man or a “keeper of the tools.” That way, you’ll always be relevant, clients won’t mind paying a premium for what you do and you’ll never be in danger of being “found out” because you (gasp) actually produce something.