It seems that it is impossible to have a conversation about the state of the ad industry without addressing Google (NSDQ: GOOG). For agencies, it’s not just a company, it’s a repository for their wildest hopes and fears about the business. So when Mediapost EIC Joe Mandese asked a panel during the OMMA Platform Wars conference how ad firms can compete with technology companies that have such huge capitalizations and knowledge of the digital world, the conversation led only to Google. The notion of “frenemy” or “froe” — terms coined by WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell to describe Google — the panel expressed a general degree of warmth towards the search giant.
– Google’s a friend: Sean Finnegan, Starcom Media Group’s president and chief digital officer, and Trevor Kaufman, CEO of Schematic, both said they regard Google as more of a collaborative partner. Finnegan, who works for a unit of Publicis Groupe, which has had a close working relationship with Google for the past year, said that if you partner with them, you don’t feel as if you’re being “disintermediated.” And while an embrace of Google would seem to be an act of apostasy from a WPP property, he added that it is the search giant that should worry about agencies. Kaufman: Google can’t create the kind of branding messages that shift the major portion of ad spending.
– The rise of Yahoo?: Speaking as a former Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) exec, Ed Montes, EVP, managing director of Havas Digital NA, says you can’t write the company off. Montes: “Yahoo has taken hits this year, but it’s done a better job of being a friend to the agencies. Google is making inroads and appears to be trying to have a better relationship with agencies. But Yahoo is rolling out new agency management tools, However, their financial problems are what’s making news. They need to get their story straight. But they have new targeting products coming and I think it will help turn things around for them. In particular, Yahoo has banked on display, which is struggling at the moment, but there will be a lot of potential there. Yahoo is not going away. Finnegan added: “They are display oriented and they may not catch up to Google on search, but they can take advantage of the content they have. That makes them relevant.”