Why Publicis Sees Google as a Friend

NEW YORK While WPP Group CEO Martin Sorrell famously described the Internet giant as a “frenemy,” the recent collaboration with Google shows No. 3 agency holding company Publicis Groupe has no such qualms, according to David Kenny, Digitas CEO and Publicis’ top digital strategist.

“I think they’re pretty clear they’re not moving into the services space,” said Kenny about Google. “At least one big agency group thinks they’re a partner.”

 Publicis held a press conference in Paris yesterday to trumpet cooperation between the entities. Publicis, for its part, has invited Google product engineers into its agencies to observe the creative, planning and buying process. The idea is for them to develop technological solutions to ease bottlenecks.

Publicis employees will also spend time at Google to understand how its products and technology can be better used. Google has also developed a dedicated sales group for Publicis agencies.

The moves, which Kenny admits are small, are steps along the way to getting to what he calls “the Internet at scale.” In his view, agencies and technology providers like Google need a fundamentally different relationship. Rather than view each other warily, they need to collaborate to make the planning, buying and measuring of digital media easier.

“The relationship between the technology platforms and the media buyers and planners will be a different relationship than exists today with media owners,” he said. “It’s not about negotiations. It’s about using technology to simplify and manage the chaos.”

This kind of collaborative approach is needed if agencies are going to complete the shift from traditional to digital media, he said. Publicis expects half of advertising to be digital “in a few years,” Kenny said.

“That requires a different level of operational relationships,” he said. “It’s complementary, consultative, open and transparent.”

A Google rep stressed that the collaboration-there is no formal agreement between the two companies-is non-exclusive.

“It’s an opportunity to strengthen a collaboration by putting some activities in place to make sure collaboration continues and strengthens going forward,” the rep said.

Kenny said he would expect, even encourage, other agency groups to work with the technology giant in similar ways. All the same, Publicis will look to make similar inroads with the other major ad technology platforms, notably Microsoft.