Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My day of learning about Agency Programs at Google

From my Twitter posts, you'll see that I spent last Thursday at an event focused on ad agency programs over on the Google campus. All in all, I think it was a great event, and I really appreciated the opportunity to participate. As with any event like this, the first question is really where to start -- particularly when there is probably a series of posts that I could put together to cover the day's topics... but we've got to start somewhere.

First impressions
It's hard to suppress a level of excitement when you get to visit a place like the Google campus. While there's a level of excitement when you visit any campus-level organization (Microsoft, Apple, HP, EA), the Google campus still carries a unique aura and brand impression. Whether it's all of the great things that you've heard about -- the cafeterias and the food, the other amenities, or just the culture -- there's just something about stepping into the environment that has been ranked as the best place to work. In that way, when it comes to branding, the investments that they have made in workplace environment are probably worth more than a series of Superbowl commercials telling everyone about how great that they are.

Beyond the simple wow factor of going to the campus, I was also struck by how big the campus actually is. As an long time Mountain View resident, I've probably been to the Shoreline business park more than most, but I was still a bit surprised by the size and capacity of some of the buildings over there.

The Day's Events
The event was focused on programs for ad agencies, providing a dog-and-pony of all of the different tools ranging from Advertising programs to support tools to help you track, monitor, and optimize your content. The day was divided into three overall events.
  • Introduction and Keynote
  • Tools and Programs Review Sessions
  • Hands-on Demos of Tools and Products
The Keynote Presentation
After a friendly welcome including some background on our location and the campus, the Google team launched into the keynote presentation (I would site names, but I didn't capture them in my notes). The keynote focused on the history and evolution of the Internet, and how that evolution was reshaping the way that we engage with customers. The presentation was packed with a bunch of great stats and tidbits on the volume of Internet traffic, but one concept that I liked was the speaker's approach to dividing up this history of the web into three periods:
  • 1.0 - Brochureware: the web is used basically like an electronic brochure with phone numbers and some contact info.
  • 2.0 - eCommerce and the Internet as a sales channel: the emergence of companies like Amazon and eBay, and an increasing comfort with the concept of engaging in online commerce
  • 3.0 - Engage with the customer: the rise of social media, video, community sites, etc.
While I felt like it was odd that many of the aspects typically ascribed to "Web 2.0" were actually "3.0" in this presentation, I think that his breakout still managed to capture and underline some important aspects (and still prevalent misconceptions) of business and the web. This wasn't a "you should get into social networking and 'web 2.0' because it's the latest trend", it was more of a "here are some trends (like purchasing habits and search) that shape the web and how Google's toolbox can help you reach customers and measure programs across a broad spectrum of media".

The Presentation Sessions
What was underscored by all of these presentations was that Google is all about providing you platforms that enable you engage with these communication paths in a cost-effective, measurable way. We went through an overview of Google's search advertising programs, their content network, and a session on some of the tools available to help you manage these programs. If, like me, you've run an some of these campaigns before, some of the content of some of these presentations was a little too entry-level, but as with most things if you can extract a kernel or two, it was probably worth your time. Two take-aways for me (beyond looking at some of the tools), were some strategies for image advertising campaigns an understanding of what Google is doing with television advertising.

The Hands-on Demo Sessions
The demo sessions were a chance to get a detailed drill-down into some of the agency tools and platform options with product managers for the different tools. While Google offers some options for old-school, blanket-exposure marketing, the most powerful aspect tends to revolve around putting your information in front of a potential customer during those moments when they are most likely to be looking for it.

There's also the web site and metrics tools like Web Site Optimizer and Analytics that Google provides to help you improve your content focus. One of the best things about Google's platform of tools is that virtually all of them are free. Everything is wrapped around making your website and your programs more efficient.

Initially, I was working a longer analysis that was a much more in-depth look at why modern commerce, the web, and search marketing and optimization require a different mindset than the traditional marketing/sales path. This was one of those moments where, as you write and focus on analysis, your writing takes you down a path you didn't expect to go. I wrote a big chunk, but it read like a big left turn in the middle of this post, so I've cut it out of here and I'll post it separately. So if this post seems a bit flat on analysis, keep checking the blog -- I should have more in the coming days.

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