"When you go into these shops, it's a simpatico environment," said Karen Crow, Google's director-online branding. There's the toys, the carefully-architected-to-look-casual brainstorming areas, the casual dress --although, said Ms. Crow, "we don't do the black turtleneck as much."
Indeed, where there are similarities, Google hopes to prove there is also symbiosis. After having wooed media agencies and completed a summer tour of chief marketing officers, Google is now courting creatives to prove it's got much more to offer than algorithms.
In the past three months, Google has visited a couple dozen ad agencies, introducing and demonstrating to chief creative officers and creative directors its suite of products and tools ready to be used in ad campaigns.
"Google is this huge mass of wet clay and they are very open and excited for others, including creative agencies, to play with it and build things with it," said Matt Jarvis, exec VP-director of account planning at Deutsch, Los Angeles. And, perhaps, to invent new uses.
"I'm not sure Google even knows how to use all of [its tools]," said Rich Silverstein, partner at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. "They've got a lot of tools in their box for ways to connect to their consumers. They're engineers. They come up with this amazing stuff and then ask, 'What are we going to do with it?"'
And that's the point, Ms. Crow said. "We don't bring the creative ideas. ... We show examples of how other people applied these tools."
Google and Goodby
She highlights a Saturn campaign born out of one of the first creative meetings with Google's down-the-road neighbor Goodby, in which a viewer clicks on a city and is flown through the world of Google Earth right through the doors of a local dealership. Google Earth then morphs to Google Video, where the local sales manager greets the viewer and introduces a "test drive," which is really a 30-second spot. Nike has mashed up Google maps to create social jogging routes throughout London. And OfficeMax used Google Video to create an online TV show as part of its back-to-school campaign.
Google, however, is not the first online player to try to up the creativity level in digital marketing. Yahoo has been a longtime champion of creative online marketing, sponsoring events such as the One Show creative awards. It also inaugurated agency summits to push the industry's capabilities forward. But Google faces a unique challenge -- one brought on by Google's immensely popular signature product.
Hard to shake search rep
"Most creatives, in fact most everyone, think of Google as search," said Ms. Crow, who spearheaded the Google contingency. Plus, admitted Gary Topolewski, the longtime Jeep creative who's now CEO of his own namesake agency, there's been some hesitancy to work with Google as some agencies view it as competitive. Mr. Topolewski helped coordinate part of the tour.
"It's an interesting relationship, but we're in interesting times," Mr. Topolewski said. "It helps marketers; it helps Google."