Dennis Woodside to Replace Tim Armstrong at Google

Former Exec for Company's European Operations Will Face Challenge of Growing New Revenue Streams

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Google moved quickly to fill the job of Tim Armstrong, who left to become chairman-CEO of Time Warner unit AOL. Dennis Woodside has been named VP-Americas operations.

Dennis Woodside
Dennis Woodside
Mr. Woodside has been at Google for five years, spending the past couple of years in Europe, where his role was similar to Mr. Armstrong's. He'll bring a global perspective to the post, said Omid Kordestani, Google's head of global sales and business development.

Mr. Woodside worked in Google's Eastern European office before moving to Dublin, where he built Google's inside sales operations from scratch. He rose up through Google's European ranks, and Mr. Kordestani credits him with establishing relationships with big advertisers and agencies. Mr. Kordestani also said he's helped to create a first-class team, as well as establish positive relationships with big partners on both the advertiser and agency side, including 02, Marks & Spencer, Amazon and Omnicom.

Importance of post
The speed at which Google filled the position indicates its importance within the organization. Google needs a respected liaison to the agency world as it attempts to build its display-advertising business which, unlike search, is not a traditional strength for the company.

Mr. Armstrong announced he was leaving Google late last week. He had been at the company for almost nine years and was its most public and trusted link to Madison Avenue, which has embraced search as a marketing vehicle but has often mistrusted Google as a steward of brand dollars. His loss was seen as a major blow.

"While we are all sorry to see Tim move on, change always brings new opportunities," Mr. Kordestani said in a statement. "We believe it's now time not just to roll out globally the best practices from the different regional sales teams -- the Americas, EMEA and Asia Pacific -- but also to tailor our business strategies more closely to the different situations we face in different countries (more mature vs. less mature markets)."

Obstacles ahead
Mr. Woodside will face a challenge in persuading large brand marketers -- and their agencies -- to buy advertising on Google properties and its network of content partners.

All of the new revenue streams are especially important for Google now, as its search growth slows after years of robust gains. The slowing growth is partly due to the simple fact that it can't continue its rapid pace forever but is also due to the difficulties in the economy.

Michael Hayes, exec VP-digital communications at IPG's Initiative, said Mr. Woodside's task would be to help Google figure out how to turn YouTube's massive audience into ad dollars, and to develop products beyond display. Of some recent efforts, such as Google TV, Google Radio and Google Print, he said, "I'm not sure agencies have wanted it."

Advertisers have also been looking for Google to leverage its dominance in data into a full-feature behavioral-targeting ad offering. Google announced what it calls "interest-based targeting" last week, but Mr. Hayes said, "given the breadth of their data, we haven't seen it yet."

Many of Google's non-search offerings rely on technology it inherited when it bought giant ad-serving player DoubleClick almost two years ago, a deal in which Mr. Armstrong was heavily involved. In the past several months Google has started to roll out programs, such as behavioral targeting, that rely on DoubleClick's technology.

Surprise choice
The appointment of Mr. Woodside, a relative unknown on Madison Avenue, caught U.S.-based agency chiefs by surprise. Google passed over several executives better known in the agency world, including U.S. Ad-Sales VP Penry Price; display-ad chief and former DoubleClick president David Rosenblatt; and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, president of Google's Asia-Pacific operations.

"We look forward to him introducing himself and hearing his approach, which might be different from the past at Google," Mr. Hayes said.

Will AOL-Google partnership continue?
The appointment came on the same day Mr. Armstrong addressed AOL staffers in Dulles, Va., for the first time, bringing some heroes of AOL's past, including founder Steve Case and former Vice Chairman Ted Leonsis, to help him rally the troops. Mr. Armstrong also told AOL staffers that Google management, including CEO Eric Schmidt and co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, blessed the move, an indication that business ties between the search giant, which already handles AOL search, could deepen going forward.

"I hope that we will continue the AOL-Google partnership for a long period of time," Mr. Armstrong said. It may be up to Mr. Woodside whether that pans out.

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