Google Turns to Publicis to Increase its Madison Avenue Savvy

Google CEO Eric Schmidt was in Paris this week to visit Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO of ad agency holding company Publicis. The two shared few details, but said that Google and Publicis were more than a year into a relationship where Google’s technology smarts and Publicis’ media planning expertise are being shared to the benefit of both companies, according to a Reuters report.

“This collaboration, underway for over one year, is based on a shared vision of how new technologies can be used to improve advertising,” reads a cryptic statement from Publicis.

According to an AdAge report, the relationship includes an exchange of talent between the two companies, with plans to “embed” employees at each others’ company for months at a time. Publicis will also use Google staff and materials for training programs, and the two companies will work together on new products, platforms and tools. Google has also reportedly established a dedicated global account team for Publicis Groupe.

Google has been looking for inroads to big brand marketers for years. It opened a 300,000-square-foot New York Googleplex in October 2006, primarily to have a base of operations near the media companies and Madison Avenue agencies that control the media budgets of large brand advertisers.

“Our main wish is that we’re able to leverage Madison Avenue combined with Silicon Valley to create the largest advertising platform in the world,” Ad Sales President Tim Armstrong told ClickZ at the time.

Armstrong, Penry Price, Google’s director of North American sales, and David Kenny, chairman and CEO of Publicis’ Digitas unit, are reportedly leading the current initiative. Publicis acquired Digitas for $1.3 billion in December 2006. The digital shop brought with it an extensive Fortune 500 client base and relationships with the top players online, including Google.

To better serve these advertisers, Google has created industry-specific teams in verticals like automotive, retail, financial services, entertainment & media, and healthcare. These teams conduct research and work closely with top advertisers in each sector, and “letting customers into your meetings,” or using customer insight to drive marketing decisions instead of making decisions in a closed boardroom, according to Armstrong.

Google has also been is poaching from the top ranks of agency creative talent, such as hiring Ogilvy & Mather co-President Andy Berndt as managing director of its Creative Lab.

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