Marketers: Experiment Like Google

Andy Berndt Explains Search Giant's In-house Brand Agency

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NEW YORK ( -- "If anyone leaves here with just one thing, let it be this: Google is not starting an ad agency."
Andy Berndt
Andy Berndt Credit: Mark Shafer

That was Andy Berndt's No. 1 point this morning to a roomful of marketing executives at the Argyle Executive CMO Leadership Forum. It was an appropriate message, given he was speaking to the exact folks ad agencies were fearful he would approach after moving from WPP Group ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, New York, where he was co-president, to lead Google Creative Lab.

Mr. Berndt, who took the stage with a current ad man, TBWA President-CEO Tom Carroll, explained that rather than simply preaching for half an hour, he and his audience were going to "have a conversation." He said Creative Lab is an "internal creative and marketing resource at Google to manage the brand and our only client is Google."

He shared first impressions after three months at the company -- and got a few laughs when he admitted it's not a huge secret that engineers aren't crazy about marketing people.

'A giant lab'
"Google's a giant lab. It doesn't have a fundamentally corporate structure," he said. "It has a fundamentally scientific structure. Sometimes the thinking happens after the doing."

But he suggested marketers should be similarly experimenting: "Marketers who are doing best are trying, they're beta [testing] all over the place, they see what works and they build on that."

At Ogilvy, and more broadly within the agency world, Mr. Berndt said he found that the creative people who came up with the big ideas generally weren't making the jump to digital, and that digital people were less involved in the narrative of the brand. He said he was hoping to help bridge that gap.

"We're creating a forum where creative people can interface with Google to understand what Google's doing across the board and take their ideas and make them bigger and more digital," he said.

When asked what exactly the Creative Lab will be doing, he said Creative Lab was an "odd misnomer" for his division. "We'll own the Google brand. ... There's a huge [quantitative] factor at Google and we're thinking about the brand with a qualitative approach."

Self-awareness about the brand
He said that at the top for the search giant there's self-awareness about where the brand is and that his role will be to really look at the brand going forward. "As the context changes, as Google changes, how do you keep an emotional connection to people?" he said.

Mr. Berndt will help develop the communications about Google's products and said they could be handled not only internally but also in conjunction with outside agencies, such as communications-planning agencies.

His job is to explain the motivations and things Google is doing in language everyone can understand. The company's mission is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

"It's less competitive than it is aspirational, but it needs lots of translation," he said.
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