Here's What Google Wants in an Ad Shop

Adaptability, Good Price, Independence a Plus -- Nondisclosure Is a Must

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NEW YORK ( -- When Google launched an in-house agency a year ago, poaching former Ogilvy & Mather bigwig Andy Berndt to lead it, some in the ad business saw it as an affront -- a sign of Google's "do-it-ourselves" mentality about, well, everything.
Andy Berndt
Andy Berndt Credit: Mark Schafer

Turns out the search engine isn't above asking for a little help from Adland.

Google has been making nice with agencies via a traveling outreach program that includes agency parties at which it shows off its creative tools, and it continuously relies on agencies to hatch ideas to peddle its ever-growing cache of products.

So what does the world's most-powerful brand, as research firm Millward Brown crowned it earlier this year, desire in an agency partner? Based on the behemoth's track record being free from the confines of a big ad conglomerate, for one thing.

Likes nimble indie shops
Google, according to ad executives who have worked with the search engine, likes independent, nimble creative shops it can cherry-pick for ideas on specific projects. The advantages, executives said, include less politics and the ability to negotiate with agencies on a price-per-project basis.

Plus, in Google's typical style of having products in beta, it can constantly test out ideas, scrap them if they don't work and come up with new ones. Not to mention the search engine is notorious for its love of nondisclosure agreements.

While it has flirted with larger shops in the past -- Google previously hired Crispin Porter & Bogusky to help market its Google Local product, and back in 2005 was in talks with several large general advertising agencies, which ultimately went nowhere -- they aren't the right match.

"Their style and the way their scope of things change constantly would never work in an agency under a big conglomerate," noted one agency executive who has worked with Google.

Google has repeatedly tapped Seattle-based independent Creature for a range of creative projects including a viral video explaining the benefits of Gmail, outdoor billboards touting the 800-GOOG-411 telephone service and a website for Google Maps.

Recent ad products
And when it wanted to help advertisers better understand how to leverage its YouTube property, Google turned not to a big digital or interactive shop but tiny creative powerhouse Toy, New York, to create a how-to-guide called a "Tubetorial" that launched earlier this year. Naked Communications is also said to have worked with Google. Indie agency (and Mr. Berndt's onetime employer) Wieden & Kennedy is working on a project for Google TV to help promote the auction-based TV-buying tool to advertisers. This project is expected to include TV creative, as Google is fond of using its own services to market itself when it can. Google was said to have also reached out for ideas from yet another independent, Taxi, New York.

Agency representatives either declined to comment or could not be reached for this story. Google declined to comment.

The need for engineer-minded Google to draw ad agencies' marketing expertise to popularize its products is clear -- almost all of Google's revenue comes from search advertising and its AdSense network. As Google nears full penetration in search, it needs to prove it's not a one-trick pony.

Google's latest campaign, focused on TV Ads, will promote the fact that the search engine also sells other media. Google sees its role as trying to bring what's good about search -- its targeted nature, click-through accountability and immediate flexibility -- to TV, and the deal it has with EchoStar allows it to sell spot advertising on Dish Network. It then gets second-by-second viewing data that allows advertisers to also use TV Ads sales as a creative-research tool. For example, marketers can see if the majority of an ad's audience is tuning out before an ad's punch line.
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