Google now employs 40 people whose sole job it is to charm Madison Avenue, reports the Times. They're doing it all wrong. Google's agency-relations team swarms in with candy, beanbags, and iPods, bringing the kindergarten esthetic of the Googleplex to ad buyers' offices. The implicit message: Google believes people in the advertising industry are as naïve as fresh-out-of-college Googlers, and their obedience can be bought with sugary treats. The effort to woo the admen may have worked too well. Instead of fearing Google, which they once thought might steal their clients, they now privately scoff at the bungling search giant as it tries to expand into other fields of advertising.Agency sources agree that Google search is, duh, a must-buy. AdSense — Google's ad network for thid-party sites — is a decent option for direct-response advertising, like credit-card or mortgage offers, which are seeking to cast as wide a net as possible. But people I've spoken to say they don't waste clients' time pitching them on using Google's other products. The key problem: For branding campaigns, it's too hard to tell if a client's ads will get placed against the right kind of content. With its new Ad Planner tool, Google says it can show advertisers all kinds of demographic data about visitors to the sites where their ads will be shown. But agency execs complain that Google's data can't show what kind of mood a visitor will be in when they visit those sites, or how prominently the ads will be displayed. Checking after these details is an ardous process for agency buyers who just want to spend their clients' money as quickly and safely as possible. The kind of sites on one ad buyer's safe list: Hulu, NBC and News Corp.'s online-video joint venture; Yahoo.com (though not Yahoo's ad network); and targeted ad networks run by ESPN and Martha Stewart. Sure, clients will pay more — but at least they'll know what they're getting. Google makes billions off a largely automated process. Its top-level executives think they can do the same other forms of advertising on the Web. They believe science can make art — a human's judgment on whether a specific ad goes with a specific bit of content — irrelevant. The fact that Googlers feel obliged to woo ad buyers with candy suggests that they're the irrelevant factor, and they're starting to realize it. One ad exec says he can't wait to see Google fail in the effort.
I wouldn't mind seeing them come down a notch or two. They think they've invented the greatest thing since sliced bread and in some cases they have — I use Gmail, search and Google Maps — but most of the time it's like, "Guys: No, you haven't.