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Google as Ad OS? Sure, If You're A Programmer

By - November 11, 2006

Beth Comstock

Over at GigaOm, Robert Young posits an interesting and clarifying concept: That Google is developing a universal OS for advertising. It’s a tempting idea – a unifying metaphor that helps us grok Google’s advertising ambitions – but I think the meme needs a perspective from outside the Valley distortion field.

Certainly all of *us* may want a clarifying metaphor that helps us grok Google’s relentless push into nearly every advertising market on earth, the real question is whether *advertisers* want it as well. And I think in the end, the answer to that question is most likely a qualified no (qualified because they’ll always be happy to push a portion of their budget through automated and efficient channels). But in the end advertisers are not computer programmers, they are marketers, and while it’s true that the approach of AdWords and AdSense pushes remarkable efficiencies and opportunities into the practice of marketing, I posit that the practice of marketing is about more than efficiency. It’s also about emotion, passion, and conversation. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t automate conversations. At least, not until Google (or someone else) pushes computing past the Turing test. And once that happens, what’s the point of marketing in the first place?

As Beth Comstock (president of NBC Interactive and at left) said to me on stage at Web 2 earlier this week (I’ll paraphrase here): Google is great at pushing efficiencies into the advertising market. But that only serves to highlight and increase the value of truly unique and well produced content (like GigaOm, for example). That kind of content needs to be served by marketing that is part of an ongoing conversation, a conversation that, for now anyway, simply cannot be automated.

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5 thoughts on “Google as Ad OS? Sure, If You're A Programmer

  1. Wow, Young’s dim view of traditional media’s seems a bit to strong. Beth Comstock’s comments a little too laid back but true to a large extent. If traditional media doesn’t inovate faster, Young may be right over the very long term, however, traditional media still has time.

  2. Wow, you’re just 100% wrong here. Sorry.

  3. Media Blog says:

    Based on what I’ve heard about how the new newspaper program works (second-hand knowledge), I think Robert Young is on to something. I wouldn’t count Google out just yet when it comes to accounting for creative marketing variables, uniqueness, etc. And Google isn’t necessarily a threat in this regard.

  4. hubert says:

    You’re right: advertisers are not computer programmers. But not all advertisers are created equal. AdWords, YSM and the likes aren’t about Madison Ave, they are about Madison, WI. It’s an amazingly efficient systems, tapping the SOHO market on a globsl scale.
    Buying/selling airtime in Desparate Housewife doesn’t need those kind of efficiencies. Yet. In an IPTV mediascape, that’s going to change.

  5. I agree that Google is great at making advertising efficient. But beyond that, I believe that they realize that they are merely a vehicle or a medium for advertising. I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon. Also, I suspect that some advertisers would always love to be able to put together a full-page newspaper ad and then click a list of checkboxes for the various papers that ad should appear in the next day.