Will Google face an advertising revolt?

It’s fair to say that Google has had it rough this week. It lost its crown as the top ranking Business Superbrand, the EC launched an informal review into its search dominance and an Italian court ruling against it seemed to threaten the freedom the internet is meant to offer. But will this change where ad agencies spend their digital pounds?

Joe Fernandez
Joe Fernandez

Leading advertising executives have welcomed the EC’s review and await to see if it changes the search marketing environment. In the past. WPP’s CEO Sir Martin Sorrell has called Google a “frenemy”. Of the EC’s probe, he is reported as suggesting “clients would welcome greater transparency in its business practices.”

However, the view of the digital ad agency world, and media agencies who heavily invest in digital, is that the court case is really a non-starter.

Google will fight the EC tooth and nail to stop having to release the workings of its search algorithms. As the company says on its blog: “If someone forced us to do that, it would destroy our product”.

One executive told me: “All Google has to do is prove that consumers have a number of options and Google is just one of them. It has earned its market share, and it doesn’t help that those opposing it just happen to be rivals. For advertisers, it’s the natural choice, the rivals should stop playing games and step up to the mark.”

Perhaps more of concern is the Italian court case, which saw Google executives convicted for failing to moderate YouTube properly.

With advertisers utilising more online technology as the core elements of campaigns now, savvy marketers will have to know how to ensure that their brand reputation is not prone to damage through failing to respond to comments or allowing others to post damaging concepts online that can be traced back to your brand.

Google says the ruling sets a “dangerous precedent” and raises major questions over the future of websites where people regularly upload information. “We are deeply troubled by this conviction, it attacks the very principles of freedom on which the internet is built,” the company says.

Even MPs are agreeing. Labour MP for West Bromwich East, Tom Watson says: “This is the biggest threat to Internet freedom we have seen in Europe… it effectively breaks the Internet.”

After all, if the Internet becomes broken, what hope is there for digital marketing?!

It has to be remembered that today’s consumers are increasingly time poor and the media landscape is increasingly fragmented. Whichever channel you use in the digital world, it’s the ability to maintain a meaningful, cohesive dialogue with consumers through the buying cycle.

And despite some sort of revolution being on the cards, research and insights into digital are continuing to make life easier for marketers. Google has recently published a column in Marketing Week explaining how you can find real-time insights easily on the site (see p24 on MW, 18 Feb). A webinar will also be available on Marketing Week Knowledge Bank to watch again shortly.

In the meantime, the EC’s informal antitrust review is where the focus will be. It will be interesting to see if this turns into a coup by its mainstream rivals, or a failed revolution. Time will tell if the loss of the business Superbrands crown was just the first sign of the cracks in our relationship with the Google brand.

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