Google: selling itself down the river

I had the privilege this week of attending a Google event in King’s Cross.

It was a good event and obviously great to hear first hand from Googlers what’s going on behind the scenes. But I came out with a worrying observation: much of what Google is developing at the moment appears not to have a business model. Or at least they didn’t present their new developments as having one.

I saw self-driving cars, new SERPs listing designs with semantic phrase-matching, handwriting recognition on tablets, profiles that sync activity across devices, and the now-infamous Google Glass (which the UK Googlers all said they had seen but didn’t own, which goes to show who Google really values).

These are all (relatively) valid problems that need solutions, and I’m aware that when you’ve got as much $$$ as the big G has, you don’t need to worry too much about ROI. But this was an event for media agencies and clients – in other words, advertisers. Representing an advertiser myself I only saw one thing that made me think, “oh I better start planning to advertise my brand that way…” And that was YouTube. Hardly news.

The much vaunted ‘end of advertising‘, partly being driven by Google’s own paid search focus on ‘navigation as advertising’ model swallowing up the budget for new models, is not being replaced by innovation from all of the ‘agency sales’ people Google now employs. I’m as against disruptive modes of advertising as the next man, but in the future should pull techniques be the only way to attract new customers? I think that might be a bit dull.

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