That’s the question that popped into my head when I read about 24/7 Real Media’s scare tactics trying to woo publishers away from DoubeClick and all the articles in the trades (mine included) speculating about the various ways GoogleClick could (ab)use its elevated position of power in the industry.
Is this just another round in the game of “take your shots at Google?” That certainly has become the chic thing to do.
Or do industry watchdogs have valid concerns about the multiple conflicts of interest inherent in the DoubleClick deal?
Alas, only time will tell. But one thing’s for certain -- the debate is healthy.
The Google Scramble
When I wrote my first Search Insider column almost a year ago, I posed the question, “Is Google Scrambling?” Ultimately, I concluded that Google’s flurry of product releases and acquisitions was necessary to meet the ever-increasing expectations of its core constituencies -- end-users, marketers, and the Street. By scrambling to keep these parties satisfied, Google successfully continued its manic rate of innovation and growth. And somehow, through it all, Google has (arguably) stayed true to its mission of organizing all the world’s information while doing no evil.
Since that time, two other key constituencies have risen to the forefront -- agencies and content creators/publishers. True to form, Google has tried to seamlessly incorporate the interests of these stakeholders into its ecosystem in its ongoing effort to be all things to all people.
In many ways, it has succeeded. Google has given agencies more flexibility and accountability in managing their client’s media budgets, not to mention tremendous volumes of targeted inventory. And it has provided publishers of all shapes and sizes with means to deliver relevant advertising on their sites and generate additional revenue from their content.
But Google’s last two major acquisitions --YouTube and DoubleClick -- have raised serious questions about how it can continue to play the role of Switzerland in the emerging digital media world.
The Frienemy Gets Betworse
Depending who you ask and what day you ask them, agencies and content creators/publishers will either tell you Google is a great partner in creating revenue opportunities or a huge threat to their business model. And the YouTube and DoubleClick deals have done nothing to cement Google’s position on one side of the fence or the other.
To agencies, YouTube can be a great opportunity to immerse a client’s brand into the conversation or it can associate a client with content that couldn’t be further from the desired brand attributes.
To content creators/publishers, YouTube can be a great way to expose new material to a wider audience or it can be a means for content to be aired in a manner they didn’t intend, with no way for them to profit from its consumption.
As for DoubleClick -- to agencies, it can be a robust technology to serve and track a client’s integrated media campaigns or it can be a system that gives Google the necessary tools to eliminate the agency role altogether.
To content creators/publishers, DoubleClick can be a scalable platform to manage ad campaigns across internal Web properties -- or it can expose inventory levels and pricing to a company that is competing for the same share of ad dollars.
What, Me Worry?
Google now owns one of my company’s competitors (Performics) as well as the front and back-end data to many of our client’s search campaigns (through DART Search).
So should we start pulling budget from Google or moving clients off DART?
Google now owns tools that can help marketers plan, create, buy, traffic, report and optimize ad campaigns
So should we agency-types start looking for a new line of work?
Of course, the practical answer to these questions is “no.” And, for better or worse, Google knows that.
Google is now the world’s most powerful brand and the most visited Web property. It has billions in its coffers to defend its market position. At this point, do we need Google more than Google needs us?
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Everyone needs to embrace the fact that Google is going to be a major player in the media, marketing, and technology sectors for a long time to come. And, as long as it exists, Google is going to pose a threat to a number of different business models.
Google has consistently maintained that it wants to partner with agencies and content creators/publishers, not put them out of business. The onus is on us to take Google to task on this. As I said in a previous column, as long as we give Google a seat at the table, we don’t need to worry about it eating our collective lunch.
For its part, though, let’s hope Google takes demonstrable steps to allay our fears rather than continue to hide behind its mission statement.
Meanwhile, perhaps it’s time we started asking not what Google can do for us -- but what we can do for Google?