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.