Sunday, April 29, 2007

Advertisers Look Forward to One-Stop Shopping on Google

Advertisers Look Forward to One-Stop Shopping on Google
by Lee Sherman

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google cast a long shadow over this year's adtech interactive media conference, where the search and advertising giant's recent agreement to purchase DoubleClick for $3.1 billion was clearly on the minds of advertisers and publishers in attendance at the Moscone Center.

Microsoft and AT&T oppose the planned acquisition, saying it violates antitrust law and gives Google a dominant position in online advertising. Privacy groups are nervous about what it means for Google to have access to data on so much customer activity.

But for advertising professionals, the deal, which represents further consolidation in an already solidifying market, has more-positive implications -- starting with the promise of one-stop ad shopping.

"Ninety-nine percent of the ad dollars are going to the top 10 websites," says David Naylor, online media director at Richter 7, an advertising agency. "From a media buyer's standpoint, it makes it much easier to have one point of contact."

Bryan Vickery, a marketing executive at Credit One Bank, agrees, noting that as Google adds display advertisements to the mix, its ability to drive traffic only increases. "As an advertiser, a one-stop shop is extremely appealing," Vickery says. "The question I have for any advertising medium is, 'Can you deliver customers to my doorstep?' At the end of the day they can."

One concern raised by advertisers Wednesday in an adtech panel discussion on networks and exchanges was the rise in user-generated content, such as that found on Google's YouTube. As online advertising starts to take on more of the characteristics of traditional media, advertisers want filtering technologies that can shield their brands from proximity to inappropriate content.

For publishers, the situation is more problematic. Display ads are the bread and butter of large content sites, and they will soon be in the hands of a company known for its programmatic approach to delivering information. Google collected an estimated 30 percent of all online ad revenues in 2006, mostly on the strength of its text-only ads. The DoubleClick acquisition will give it the dominant position in graphical ads, which account for another 34 percent of the overall ad market.

Henry Vogel, chief revenue officer at Quigo Technologies, a Google competitor, says publishers fear that the lack of transparency in Google's AdSense may be extended to display advertising: "The biggest single downside (of the DoubleClick purchase) is that it concentrates more information and control in one company."

Quigo's AdSonar product lets advertisers bid on specific media properties and determine precisely where their ads will end up, in addition to purchasing run-of-network ads. Vogel says Quigo's approach allows publishers to own the customer relationship, something that isn't possible with Google's network.

"Is Google friend or foe?" Vogel asks. "If Google is competing with you for your audience and your advertisers, they now have even more ammunition to do so."

Tina Brown: Hail, the Queen of Gloss

Tina Brown: Hail, the Queen of Gloss
The chronicler of celebrity culture turns her waspish wit on the life of its High Princess
By Paul Vallely

When Tina Brown took over that venerable literary institution The New Yorker and attempted to drag it into the late 20th century, a number of its most renowned writers resigned. At the magazine's 70th anniversary party in 1995, its British editor asked an actor to read out the resignation letter of one of the grandest members of staff, which bemoaned the magazine's fascination with the OJ Simpson murder case.

"For you to kiss the ass of celebrity culture at this moment that way," the departing scribe loftily opined, "is like selling your soul to get close to the Hapsburgs in 1913." Brown then had her reply read out by an actress, choosing Debra Winger to play herself in what the New York Post described as "a suitably immaculate English accent".

She wrote: "I am distraught at your defection, but since you never actually write anything, I should say I am notionally distraught."

Here, in a single anecdote, is all you need to know about Tina Brown - funny and elegant, powerful, brittle and ruthless - and the author of what promises to be the most high-profile of the slew of books about Princess Diana to be published in the run-up to the 10th anniversary of her death.

To save you the bother of buying it, here are what are reported to be its key claims: Diana was more in love with the Prince of Wales's title than she was with him; they had sex on the royal train twice before their marriage; Charles was faithful to her until her eating disorders and neurotic behaviour drove him back into the arms of Camilla; Camilla's real love was not Charles but her philandering husband, Andrew, and she only had an affair with Charles in retaliation for Andrew's infidelity; Diana had no intention of marrying Dodi Fayed but had a dalliance with him merely to annoy Charles and the Royal Family. The dead heroine was, in conclusion, a "spiteful, manipulative, media-savvy neurotic".

Not that Brown's husband, Sir Harold Evans, still perhaps Britain's most distinguished living newspaper man, will thank me for saying that. We should all wait to read the whole book to see it all in proper context, he has said. No doubt lots of people will.

Lots of people have taken to everything Ms Brown has done ever since she was a promising young playwright - winning The Sunday Times Drama Award in 1973 - and then a promising young journalist interviewing, and also dating, famous men such as Auberon Waugh, Dudley Moore and Martin Amis. She also dated Harold Evans, then the illustrious editor of The Sunday Times and, the scandalised newsroom noted, 26 years her senior, as well as married to someone else.

All that promise was actualised not as a writer but as an editor. In 1979, at the age of just 25, Brown was offered the editorship of the moribund 270-year-old society magazine The Tatler. In four years she revitalised it to the extent that its circulation trebled. She was then hired as an editorial adviser to Vanity Fair in New York for six weeks, but became editor-in-chief withinmonths. It, too, was an enormous success, based on the formula of what Brown called "high-class trash" - a mix of high-gloss fashion, vacuous celebrity and serious foreign reporting.

It was what her early life had shaped her for. Her father had been a film producer in post-war Britain making movies with stars such as Margaret Rutherford and Richard Attenborough. Her vivacious mother was Laurence Olivier's press agent and, in later years, gossip columnist for an English-language magazine for expatriates in Spain. "Family parties," said one report, "attracted the likes of Sean Connery and Joan Collins, and little Tina became used to perching on famous knees." It gave her the self-confidence to get expelled from three boarding schools - once for describing the headmistress's bosom as "an unidentified flying object". At Oxford, where she was clever but not very clever, she organised her own parties. "You knew you had made it if you were invited", said her Oxford contemporary, Tony Blair, who was not. Parties have been part of her modus operandi ever since. "You don't make friends, you make contacts," she said on her arrival in New York.

Later, at The New Yorker, some long-standing contributors sniffed that she was a vulgarian. She turned the much-lauded but little-read literary institution into "mere journalism" or "a version of People magazine". The snobbery was undiminished when Brown exercised the over-affluent editor's technique - despised by writers - of commissioning more articles than she had room for and binning the ones she liked least. But she made The New Yorker more readable by leading writers of high seriousness to feed at the trough of celebrity culture. It made it more like every other magazine in America, yet she did it with the antennae of what one US contemporary described as "her generation's most adroit zeitgeist surfer". Circulation rose by 30 per cent.

She has not always had the Midas touch. She quit The New Yorker after six years after being invited by Harvey and Bob Weinstein of Miramax Films to run a new multi-media company encompassing a new magazine, a book company and a television show. The magazine Talk, a glossy celebrity-led monthly, flopped, losing millions in the post 9/11 advertising recession. Her column in The Washington Post was criticised by the paper's own ombudsman. And her weekly talk show on CNBC was cancelled after poor ratings.

It was at that point that Brown, by now a US citizen, turned her attention to Diana, negotiating a $2m (£1m) advance from Random House, the publishing company of which her husband was until fairly recently president.

The book begins with an account of the last "girls' lunch" she had with the Princess at the Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan in the summer of 1997, not long before Diana died being pursued by paparazzi. Brown has used her extensive contacts book to interview 250 people, including Tony Blair, about the dead woman. It will be published inJune - just a fortnight before the memorial concert to their mother planned by Prince William and Prince Harry.

It tries, Brown has said, to examine the Princess as a cultural archetype of a modern-day Britain that is, as Diana was, "emotional and media-obsessed". High seriousness feeding at the trough of celebrity culture. Very post-modern. Very lucrative. The Tina Brown formula at work once more.

The book is "an affectionate and multi-faceted portrayal of Diana," she says. It is not a hatchet job. "I think it's sympathetic to everyone actually." We shall see. Oh, how we shall see.