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Google's relationship with Madison Avenue has been a tenuous one, but with a bit of outreach and a few olive branches, the search giant has managed to cozy up to major agencies and brand marketers.
But the company's massive deal with Heineken, one of the 100 largest digital advertisers, is raising new questions about Google's position in the market.
The deal was originally reported on by the Financial Times, and as AdAge explains:
[The deal] covers at least 20 countries and calls for the brewer to advertise on Google platforms, including YouTube, in return for consulting services, including audience targeting and joint research projects.
Both companies will bring "together their marketing professionals to exchange ideas and share knowledge," Heineken said in a statement. The two companies will also work together to create mobile campaigns in emerging markets.
AdAge's EJ Schultz observes, "it sounds a bit like what digital agencies do." That it sure does, but should agencies start worrying about Google cutting them out?
None of the digital agencies Heineken works with have been displaced by the brewer's relationship with Google, and Tom Bedecarre, the CEO of AKQA, Heineken's global digital agency, told AdAge that he's not only "strongly in favor of clients having a better and stronger relationship with companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter", but that he helps facilitate those relationships.
Google, likely concerned about creating undesirable tensions in agencyville, is going out of its way to reassure agencies that there's still a place for them. "All of the implementation [for the Heineken deal] is happening through agencies," Google's Henrique de Castro told AdAge. In other words, agencies are safe.
But that doesn't mean that agencies shouldn't be at least a little concerned. Even if Heineken's Google deal is closer in nature to an upfront buy than it is to an agency relationship, agencies need to understand what Heineken is getting in return.
A comment by Tara Carraro, a Heineken spokesperson, is revealing:
The agreement with Google is to use their know-how on analytics in measuring effectiveness on consumer insights.
Although it's somewhat unclear what this means, Carraro seems to be implying that Heineken believes Google is more capable of handling the measurement of its digital campaigns than its digital agencies are.
So even if those digital agencies aren't being dismissed today, they might want to consider the strategic importance of going beyond the creative if they're going to stay competitive in the digital space in the coming years.