Media Lifeline: Google's ad sales

The web giant's successful UK ad operation has been controversial since its launch.

September 2001: Having just launched, Google prepares to ratchet up its UK commercial operation by hiring Kate Burns, who had previously been the sales manager at Alta Vista, as its head of UK sales. Omid Kordestani, Google's US-based vice-president of business development, says he is optimistic about UK revenue prospects, despite deteriorating economic conditions and a deepening advertising downturn.

January 2006: The operation prospers and, in 2006, Mark Howe, a former boss of the cable TV sales house ids, is appointed as the managing director of Google UK. In June, Burns announces she is leaving the company to spend more time with her family.

January 2007: Howe vows to rebuild relationships with agencies - Google had annoyed many by monkeying around with commission structures. And, a year into his new role, Howe increases that commitment by hiring Jonathan Gillespie, formerly the head of radio at Omnicom's media trading unit, OPera, as "agency leader". He is briefed to help agencies "maximise the value they give to their clients" from the ad platforms Google offers.

September 2007: In turn, Gillespie builds up an agency team including Peter Cory, poached from the RadioCentre, Philip Miles, previously the group sales director at Maiden Outdoor, and David Raitt, an internal appointee. In September, the "best practice funding" scheme that had caused the original commission row is scrapped. Perversely, agencies affect to be upset all over again.

January 2009: In January 2008, Gillespie had moved to sell display advertising formats on Google's subsidiary, YouTube. But now he quits to join GMG Radio. Google says he will not be replaced - and Bruce Daisley will continue to head up search advertising sales on Google.

Fast forward ...

January 2010: The YouTube position continues to be vacant, even as the brand launches as an IPTV channel on Virgin and Sky Anytime - Google has been attempting to leverage its ad sales across Google search and YouTube display in a conditional sell. Now the company is astonished when, thanks to the intervention of agencies with long memories and festering resentments, the Office of Fair Trading announces an investigation.