Close-Up: Google shows adland the new tools of its trade

The company hasn't always been regarded as a friend of the ad industry. But there's no doubt that wooing agencies is now top of its agenda. So what did adland execs make of their invitation to get close to the digital giant at last week's Google Jam?

- Mark Boyd, head of content, Bartle Bogle Hegarty

It used to be very different. Ad folk were regularly invited to media owner presentations. Chardonnay and a slice of quiche then buoyed you for a world speed record attempt for PowerPoint slides, baffling stats with only a brief respite, a mood tape of what is to come.

Last week's Google Jam was a very different affair. That's not because the fricasseed chicken in mini copper pots, media canapes of 2009 and 2010 in my book, signalled business was looking rosier on Buckingham Palace Road. The real difference was Google's positioning as a technology rather than media company, as collaborator rather than aggregator and distributor. It is a subtle and seismic shift.

Over a couple of hours, their finest showed some of the toy chest of new applications. They are the kind of toys worth fighting for. Check out the Google Wonderwheel, new 3D modelling tools in Sketchup and new Google Insight functionality that can allow you for the first time to correlate the relationship between vodka consumption and the word sorry.

But as mobile internet shortly takes over fixed-line internet usage, it was the mobile stuff that looked really cool and that I found myself recounting to a 92-year-old farmer's wife in Somerset at the weekend. Functionality that allows your phone to translate voice and words instantly and will soon allow you to talk in real-time with someone whom you shared no common language with. Goggles, the visual recognition application, where you can take a picture of any object, search and get the background information instantly.

Google's challenge is a motivating one: we are just the tech guys; we want you to tell us how best to use it. Warmed by the melon mojitos, I almost felt reassured by this. You had the sense that in two hours you have barely touched the surface and that there are plenty more toys in the chest. Cloud computing, for one, was barely mentioned.

But then, we only had two hours. Questions of privacy and openness all seem a long way away when your camera phone is translating your business card into Mandarin.

Do agencies need to listen? Up to you. But if you're interested in how consumers behave, how to develop messages in real time, in audiences of scale and building tech and wow into your messages, that would be a yes.

If Google was seen by agencies in the past as the enemy, it looked pretty friendly last week.

- Michael Edge, head of digital, VCCP

Proceedings were kicked off with the promise of a "voyage of inspiration and discovery" and followed by a series of slick presentations from the stars of the Google team. The highlight for me was the mind-boggling real-time voice translation software, and the Google Goggles demo, which pointed to how we could use mobile as a natural response bridge between outdoor and digital.

Many of the wonders on show were truly groundbreaking and astonishing, even for old hands around the room like myself. But the really important point that came out of the Jam was that many of these magical and revolutionary things that Google has created for us are free. For example, code.google.com is a smorgasbord of innovation that any agency can use as a free digital chemistry set, assuming they have someone who knows what an API is, of course.

And it's not just the creative technologists who should be excited. There's a whole range of free tools that planners can use to gather insights on an audience or brand, or track real-time campaign performance. How about creating rough-cuts of your new TV ad and testing it out on a huge YouTube audience to find the exact points where interest peaks or viewers drop off?

There was even talk of "survival of the fittest" pre-roll advertising where ads that are skipped by viewers are downgraded and served less than ads that viewers watch through. No more subjectivity in the creative sign-off process or any need for a slick sell-in from account management - the ads have to fight for themselves.

Google is providing us with new and innovative tools to connect with our audiences, and it's a nobrainer for us to leverage them creatively for our clients.

- Michael Rebelo, managing director, Saatchi & Saatchi

If Google's mantra is "don't be evil", then my advice to anyone working in our industry should be: "Make Google your friend, fast." Here's why:

Google owns YouTube, the source of inspiration and plagiarism for many creative departments in the Soho square mile and beyond. YouTube gets two billion clips viewed per day, the equivalent of every person on the planet viewing ten clips per month.

Its platform is based on being "open". It is giving us valuable stuff for free; from free insight into the latest search and online behaviour around brands to free consumer testing of your film content or ads.

YouTube is the world's biggest focus group if you want it to be and it rewards creativity. Be more entertaining and interesting and your ads will top its popularity rankings. Couple this to the latest IPA/Thinkbox research on creativity and effectiveness and we may win more creative battles with our clients than our TV sets may suggest.

Google continues to innovate faster than we can keep up. Like Apple, it is bringing us tools for creativity, and is moving beyond traditional search in the quest to diversify its revenue model. Google voice search, Goggles, Google Earth in Maps, and Sketchup are some of the latest apps.

But this is where Google needs us. To make this innovation commercially successful, it needs these tools applied to the marketing challenges our clients face; and, for now, we're still the best placed to deliver this. The UK is one of the most advanced digital societies in the world. Partner with Google and our industry may just catch up.

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