SNothing, it seems, can stop Google — except the overweening hubris of its employees. Every time Googlers venture outside the Googleplex to demonstrate their charitable embrace of the digitally unfortunate, they end up just reinforcing their snobby superiority. So it went with the search giant's job-swap program with starchy old-media marketer Procter & Gamble.Tim Armstrong, the Google sales guy who came up with the program, had the best of intentions. Wall Street will keep punishing Google's stock until the company can prove it has another trick besides selling text ads linked to search terms. Television advertising is a huge market — in the U.S. alone, it still generates $70 billion a year. Google wants a piece of that business. At $8.7 billion a year, Procter & Gamble's TV budget is the largest in the country; who better to learn from? The only problem: A detailed look by the Wall Street Journal at the program, which had two dozen Googlers and "Proctoids" — P&G employees — spending weeks at each other's employer showed the Proctoids learning and the Googlers laughing. For example: P&G marketers snagged actress Salma Hayek for a Pampers promotion, but, to the disbelief of a Googler, didn't invite any mommybloggers. A useful insight: Pampers brand managers corrected the omission. Proctoids also learned how to track the popularity of online search terms. What did Googlers learn at P&G? When a Proctoid presented a 1950s-era television ad, and told them it reached 70 to 80 percent of the audience, they scoffed. That kind of historical data did not fit their algorithm. A fruit of the companies' joint work was a campaign for YouTube users to create spoofs of P&G's "Talking Stain" commercials. That's vastly cheaper than running a television advertising campaign; Google, which has hardly figured out how to sell ads on YouTube, foots P&G's bandwidth bill for the videos, and gets little visible in return. Google's Armstrong may have hoped his salespeople would learn how to pitch Procter & Gamble for a piece of its multibillion-dollar ad budget. They were too busy giggling while their counterparts at the staid soap-and-diapers company were learning how to market their products cheaply online. P&G got the beter end of this bargain: It may well save money, but it's not clear Google will get much of it. At that rate, P&G will have the last laugh.
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