Google targets ‘charm offensive’ at agency world

Google has embarked on a “charm offensive” around Europe, with senior US and European executives meeting representatives from the search engine marketing community and from traditional offline media and creative agencies in the UK, Germany and France.

The US contingent is headed by Google product management director Richard Holden, who is in charge of all online advertising products, development and strategy for Google globally. He confirms that Google has set up “a series of round table events” that are likely to become a regular occurrence. It is understood there has already been a meeting with senior WPP executives including Sir Martin Sorrell and WPP clients.

Google European head of agency relations Damian Burns, who is also involved in the meetings, says: “There’s a real value in listening to what [the agencies] are saying. We’re coming in with a few things to say and leaving with a lot more things to think about.” Burns joined Google last July from digital and direct media agency Zed.

Some search insiders say Google is trying to repair any remaining damage caused by its change to how it pays agency commissions in Europe. Burns admits Google could have handled the announcement better, but stresses the search engine giant believes the new Third Party Programme is fairer to agencies, offering discounts to more players.

⢠Holden also revealed more details of Google’s experiment with offline media buying. Google has bulk bought space in a number of US magazines, and has set up a website where marketers can bid for that space. Holden says the auction will end at the end of March, and stresses it is just an experiment to enable Google, advertising agencies and marketers to explore whether it is “a viable model”. If it is a success, then Google may look at testing the concept for radio and television.

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