Google Inks $100 Million Upfront Deal With Publicis Agencies DigitasLBi and Razorfish

Deal For Brand Ads Does Not Include Search

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The concept of a digital upfront just got more legit.

Publicis Groupe's DigitasLBi and Razorfish are committing north of $100 million for the coming year for inventory across Google platforms, such as YouTube and Google Plus, according to executives familiar with the matter.

Torrence Boone
Torrence Boone

Neither Google nor the Publicis digital shops would discuss the terms of the deal, but both groups said it's the biggest deal of its kind for each.

The deal includes access to inventory through Google's banner and mobile ad networks, as well as inventory on its actual websites such as YouTube and brand pages on Google Plus and Hangouts, among others. The groups will also work together on campaigns that include new creative content and web videos through YouTube.

Torrence Boone, managing director for Americas agency business development at Google, said that the teams might work together on a campaign that looks like Dove's Real Beauty Sketches. Parent Unilever initially launched the campaign on YouTube and then promoted the creative across Google's display and mobile ad networks.

"The innovation and motivation for the campaign had digital at the core," he said. "That's the kind of campaign type that we're looking to replicate by having a significant upfront commitment and rallying additional resources like creative planning, content data and analytics."

Google has long been the dominant player in search advertising but recently it has become a power in display as well. In 2011, both Facebook and Google overtook Yahoo as the biggest sellers of online display advertising in the U.S. Facebook briefly held the lead but was overtaken by Google in 2012. This year eMarketer expects Google to account for just over $3 billion in U.S. display advertising in 2013 or about 17% of the total market, compared to $2.9 billion for Facebook and $1.3 billion for Yahoo.

When asked how this latest commitment is different from Google's deals with more traditional media buying and planning agencies, he said that digital agency campaigns tend to start on digital platforms. "They can be uniquely tapped to drive the brand agenda of very large clients who are increasingly focused on digital as the core of their brand marketing efforts," he said. "Traditional media [players] are still more TV centric."

Rishad Tobaccowala
Rishad Tobaccowala

The commitment also gives DigitasLBi and Razorfish discounted rates from Google. "You need scale to get lower prices, and you need scale to get attention," said Rishad Tobaccowala, chairman of DigitasLBi and Razorfish.

For Google, the deal represents the kind of partnerships it would like to have with agencies. "In the past the legacy of the company has been in the performance space. We'll continue to grow there," said Mr. Boone. However, now, he said, "It's about positioning Google as a partner of choice in the brand space."

To further its brand pursuits, the company hired president of family care at P&G Kirk Perry, as president of brand solutions at Google, a new role reporting to Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora.

"Google wants to become a player in non-search inventory and grow things like YouTube," said Mr. Tobaccowala. "They have some capabilities to develop content, but that's not the business they really want to be in. We know how to make that engine run."

The DigitasLBi and Razorfish commitment comes on the heels of similar partnerships between Google and Publicis' MediaVest and YouTube's more formal content-creation program for its top agency partners. Also, Yahoo recently inked a content deal with Starcom.

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