Google picks Ogilvy chief Berndt to head agency unit

Google has taken a step closer to challenging the agency world after poaching Andy Berndt, co-president of Ogilvy & Mather New York, to head a new division.

It is understood that the new unit will work closely with marketers, agencies and entertainment companies to build and manage their online campaigns. The move is being seen by industry observers as a sign that it aims to offer services rivalling those of agencies.

It already offers advertisers creative and planning services, and the new unit is understood to be taking these operations under its remit. Observers say that the appointment of Berndt will pre-empt a move by Google to offer in-house agency services.

Berndt was only appointed co-president of O&M’s New York office in May. He has been with the agency since 1999, and he was promoted to managing director last year. He has previously worked at TBWA/Chiat/Day, working on the Apple account, and at Weiden & Kennedy, handling Nike and Microsoft.

Google’s move to open a unit that offers advertising agency services is not unexpected. Rival Microsoft recently bought aQuantive, which owns the advertising agency Avenue A/Razorfish, and Microsoft has said it has no plans to sell off the agency.

Google has also made forays into radio and print buying in the US, and there have been reports that it is also looking to move into TV. The internet company has also been ramping up its commercial offering in other areas with high-profile acquisitions, including display network DoubleClick.

The proposed acquisition of DoubleClick has resulted in Google being criticised for the amount of data it holds on advertisers and users, with consumer groups calling for the deal to be scrapped, in a bid to ensure privacy is not violated.

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