Hired by Google four years ago, his mandate was to launch AdWords, the core of Google's advertising model, which allows an advertiser to set a cost-per-click for each keyword.
"I was hired to ramp up AdWords," Mr. Armstrong says. He learned the technology, got to know customers and hired a sales force-starting from his New York apartment. "The Starbucks nearby was our interview room," he says.
Four years later, Google became a public company largely on the success of the advertising mecca Mr. Armstrong helped build. Google generated ad revenue of $916.6 million in 2003, with advertising for its Web sites and network of publishers accounting for 96% of first-quarter 2004 net revenues, according to its Securities & Exchange Commission filing. Google boasted 150,000 advertisers at the time of the filing.
"The core innovation feature in AdWords is letting users help determine what's relevant for them, how useful it is for them and how ads should be placed," Mr. Armstrong says. Although revenues from search advertising are overall expected to increase 34% in 2004 to $2.6 billion, prices will go up, too, forcing advertisers to focus on efficiency in converting clicks into customers, according to Jupiter Research in a recent online marketing study.
Google's greatest strength-quickly delivering keyword search results-is also its greatest weakness, analysts say. That's because successful advertising requires consumers to stick around.
Whatever the sales challenge, this Google executive is equal to it, says Dave Morgan, CEO of online behavioral marketing operation Tacoda. "As a venture capitalist said about him, `Tim Armstrong is the best sales athlete in the Internet,' " Mr. Morgan says.
He has built AdWords and helped introduced such products as AdSense, which delivers paid ads targeted to content on Web sites; a platform that tracks conversions for advertisers; and a local search product.
He says his biggest challenge is educating marketers about the power of search. After all, users are online 24 hours a day taking the medium to the next level.