Publicis Keeps Friends Close, Frenemies Even Closer, Unveils Google 'Collaboration'

Google is becoming more friend than enemy at least at one of Madison Avenue's biggest players. During an informal press briefing on Tuesday, Publics chief Maurice Levy and Google chief Eric Schmidt unveiled an "ongoing collaboration" between the two companies. Details were sketchy, but the executives said the collaboration, underway for more than a year, is "based on a shared vision of how new technologies can be used to improve advertising."

Though the briefing didn't reveal much more than sound bites and photo ops, Levy and Schmidt said the alliance involved the sharing of proprietary technical knowledge, as well as insights about advertising and media planning and buying, and involves the exchange of personnel between the two companies. The initiative is being led by David Kenny, chairman-CEO of Publicis' Digitas unit, and Time Armstrong, president of Google's advertising sales organization.

The move coincides with Publicis' $1.3 billion acquisition of Digitas last year, and Levy's avowed commitment to become a dominant player in online and digital advertising services.

It also comes as Google has stepped up its efforts to crack Madison Avenue's advertising code, and to expand its expertise and superior technology from the online search industry that it currently dominates, into all media.

Google has independently been recruiting Madison Avenue expertise at a rapid clip, hiring hundreds of former agency media planners, buyers and account planning executives to help build out a burgeoning advertising and media services organization. The company maintains that it is not interested in providing traditional agency services, but is making such moves to help agencies and their clients utilizes media more effectively and efficiently. But the blurry nature dividing Google's capabilities - and market clout - with those of traditional advertising agencies, has led at least one industry chief, WPP's Martin Sorrell, to term Google the ad industry's "frenemy."

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