Google and the ad biz

GoogleMarc Babej at Being Reasonable tells us that Google appears poised to enter automated ad biz (Babej 2006 below). 

Google and Spot Runner (or something like it) could add up to a nasty scenario for the advertising establishment: automated ad placement, plus automated/mass produced creative, plus accountability via pay-per action. Word to the wise: the less you’d want to ponder this one, the more you probably should.

Spot Runner offers pre-fab ads in which a client merely inserts a company name, address and phone number.  There are several sample ads at the Spot Runner website (see below) and while they are not complete stinkers, they are bad enough to remind us why God created ad agencies.

I don’t doubt that pre-fab ads will actually ad value for little companies struggling to raise their profile in local markets.  I don’t doubt that "Bob’s warehouse" here in Southwest Connecticut would be well served by a Spot Runner ad.   (I think a number of us in my little town would be happy to pass the hat to create a "relief fund" for Bob (our own).)

There’s a reason why ads are custom made.  It is because meaning manufacture makes no sense when done in batches.  When an ad confers pre-fab meanings on a product or a brand, it’s going to look like a suit from Mark’s warehouse and it’s going to wear like one. 

It is easy to to accuse the agency of being distant, arrogant, unforthcoming, and indeed of turning out a little pre-fab of their own.  I’ve made this accusation myself (McCracken 2005b).  But finally good agencies deploy a range of talented people in the creation and execution of a very  difficult task.  They make brands.  And they made the fortune and the fortunes of the brand. 

As I was arguing several weeks ago (McCracken 2005a), Google doesn’t understand meaning manufacturer and their partnership with Spot Runnner (or something like it) is proof of this.  Lots of things can be routinized and manufactured by rote.  Ads, good ads, effective ads, are not among them.  (It’s moments like this that a $460.00 share price just seem too high.) 


Babej, Marc.  2006.  The Other Doomsday Scenario: Google Talks About Automated Creative. 
Being  January 18, 2006.  here.

Spotrunner ads can be found here

McCracken, Grant   2005a.  Google versus Madison Avenue: no contest here.  This Blog Sits At the Intersection of Economics and Anthropology.  November 1, 2005.  here.

McCracken, Grant. 2005b.  New Agencies, new clients.  This Blog Sits At The Intersection of Economics and Anthropology.  July 1, 2005.  here

4 thoughts on “Google and the ad biz

  1. Peter

    Grant —

    I see Google’s hubris here as the consequence of a key failing of Information Theory which all computer scientists (including, do doubt, the Google founders) are currently taught. This theory, due originally to Claude Shannon, explicitly ignores the semantics of messages. Information is analyzed in terms of bit streams (sequences of 0s and 1s) and the theory constructed regardless of what these binary digits represent.

    This is well and good as far as it goes, and the evidence is all around us of just how far it can go. But, as we enter an age of intelligent computation, and of interaction between intelligent entities (humans and/or machines), then communications is more often about actions than merely the sharing of information. Here, we need to have a handle on the context, the intentions, the meanings, and the consequences of messages, not just their syntactic form. Current information theory, by ignoring semantics and pragmatics, is singularly ill-positioned to provide this handle.

  2. Pingback: Google News Blog

  3. Pingback: Google News Blog

  4. Pingback: Google News Blog

Comments are closed.