Sorrell Questions Google's Intentions



With Google's deal to serve search results on Yahoo! barely one week old, it was only fitting that WPP Group CEO Martin Sorrell seated two executives from the companies side by side at a panel discussion he moderated here today at the International Advertising Festival.

The WPP chief wasted little time in showing his skepticism about Google's growing power on the Internet.

Sorrell quickly veered from the stated topic, "From Metrics to Brand: Online's Next Challenge," in order to question the "love affair" between Google and Yahoo! and instances of Google bypassing agencies to get directly to clients.

He ultimately hinted that Google was not living up to its word.

Sorrell referenced Google CEO Eric Schmidt's pronouncement at the Davos economic summit that the company wanted to make inroads in advertising and marketing services, also noting Google's hire of Ogilvy & Mather New York co-president Andy Berndt.

Was Google trying to "disintermediate" ad agencies? Sorrell asked.

"At the end of the day, we're a technology company," said Henrique de Castro, managing director of European sales at Google. "We're definitely not an ad agency."

Sorrell probed whether Google is going directly to clients and cutting out ad shops -- a complaint heard from agency executives here this week.

De Castro said the company is only hungry for change, and while it might discuss programs directly with some advertisers, that wasn't its preference.

Sorrell accused Google of saying one thing while doing another, and asked whether that was because of internal disorganization or an "orchestrated scheme."

"We've tried to do a lot of experimenting," de Castro said. "It's very iterative. The overall trend is [that] we work better and better with agencies."

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