Was There a FOG Over Advertising Week?

It’s becoming nearly impossible to attend a marketing trade show (and there are plenty of them) without someone making a comment about how Google is planning to overtake the industry. It doesn’t matter if you’re an ad agency, media agency, content creator or a seller of fine wine; everyone seems to be worried that they will be overtaken by Google’s rapidly growing empire.

Paranoia has reached an all-time high and there seems to be no end in sight, as Google continues to roll out new products that catch the eye of Wall Street. In the last few weeks alone, such launches have included the Chrome Web browser, the Android operating system and even a new way to buy broadcast television.

Why is everyone so concerned?

Because Google is a smart, adaptive, changing, learning enterprise that will not be confined to boundaries established by companies that are less smart, adaptive or able to change.

Fear of Google — or the so-called “FOG” — is partially driven by a growing resentment over how quickly the firm has become a highly respected global marketing authority. Google has led the “innovation conversation” over the past few years and there seems to be more confidence in the company detangling the future for marketers than traditional agencies. 

How did Google reach this point?

By pouring boatloads of investment into R&D that is powered by leading-edge engineering and analytic resources. This approach resulted in the creation of applications that typically provide a superior user experience and potentially better answers for marketers. Initially, this yielded search dominance. But growth beyond search is where the FOG begins to crawl.

Google’s expansion into content creation (YouTube, knoll, map mashing) demonstrates an ability to devise applications that harness the power of user-generated creativity. While not traditional creative development, this starts to lean into the space usually occupied by media-content companies and ad agencies.

Its plunge into applications to help media agencies buy radio, TV and print may help eliminate the productivity inefficiencies in our business. While not traditional media planning/buying, this starts to lean into the space of media agencies.

And Google’s new Web analytics tools help planners conduct research for free. Google hopes this will increase the likelihood to invest with its properties. While this level of analytic research is not a direct threat to Nielsen and comScore, this starts to lean into the space of research companies.

With all of that as a backdrop, should we worry about Google eliminating our jobs?

Not yet. But we should stop worrying and start hurrying to stay on the same footing.

Google’s culture to invent new platforms should be a wake-up call for advertising and other marketing companies to constantly rethink our offerings and our business models. We need to hurry to get ahead of more adaptive and risk-embracing digital companies that don’t live in confined walls. Google is not the only company that fits this description.

We need to stop obsessing over the Google-Yahoo! search partnership and focus on the bigger picture of how search is fundamentally changing the way people make buying decisions. This focus may be the catalyst for new offerings that challenge Google’s market dominance. Obviously if Google violates fair trade regulations, it’s the government’s responsibility to make objective rulings. Needless to say, this will be interesting to watch given the regulatory debates that are likely to occur in the foreseeable future. 

Agencies have an opportunity to put a new stake in the ground that guides clients with objective digital consulting on how to navigate a changing and increasingly more complex marketing landscape. This requires both resources and a commitment to challenge the conventions of our industry.