Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Google Zeitgeist

Last week, I was invited to Google’s Zeitgeist forum at The Grove in Hertfordshire to host a panel on "Branding Today and Tomorrow". The session was opened by David Miliband, Secretary of State for the Environment. He made a compelling argument that in the UK, we have moved politically and socially from the “I want” and “I need” generations to the “I can” generation. It’s a great moment when even the politicians have come to understand that the consumer is boss!

I had the honor of opening the business sessions with a heavyweight panel comprising Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, BSkyB CEO James Murdoch, Robin Harper from Second Life, and Mercedes-Benz's Olaf Goettgens. The panel was passionate about consumers, connectivity and community, optimism and technology. And they offered some broad brush global perspectives: looking east towards China, India and Indonesia is an imperative; the Middle East remains positive given the likely continued rise in oil prices and, while US resilience and pragmatism deserve praise, Europe is set to remain sluggish.

In a stroke of dramatic timing, the conference took place 24 hours after Google’s acquisition of Double Click, Microsoft’s acquisition of aQuantive, and WPP’s acquisition of 24/7 Real Media. It was a day for frenemies and froes, co-opetition at its finest - spiced with proximity. Many of these companies, like Microsoft, BSkyB and Google, are now becoming buyers and sellers of advertising. It reminds me of the retail business, where Wal-Mart is both P&G’s customer and competitor. It is definitely a world of and/and. Should be fun.