Snarky Behavior

Doing No Evil

July 2, 2007 · 6 Comments

First, a bit of housekeeping: It’s month three of this blog and I’m still going strong. Unique visitors continue to go up, which is encouraging. If you’re reading, don’t be scared to leave a comment, even if I don’t know you, or barely know you, or haven’t talked to you in awhile, or you’re stalking me on facebook, etc. Feedback helps.

I’ve admitted before that I’m a Google whore . Everything about that company fascinates me. In an era where public faith in the public sector is dismally low, coupled with questionable business ethics in the energy, manufacturing and financial sectors , Google is a beacon of hope and possibility.

The company has harnessed the capacities of the internet and monetized them without assuming the corporate stigmas of other self-serving monopolies (ahem, Microsoft). It’s very brand generates optimism, youth, and knowledge. And to some degree they have captured the wonder and excitement that NASA used to espouse; the seemingly limitless potential of great intellect driven by creative vision.

Now, Google is not without its critics. Their recent acquisition of Double-Click (the major internet player in display advertising) has increased scrutiny on their privacy practices and policies. Double-Click gives Google a delivery mechanism to compliment the “smart” sales-advertising of AdWords with targeted brand advertising. In short, Google has the most valuable database of specific consumer behavior in the history of the world, and now a schema to tailor and deliver advertisements at the individual level.

What an incredible development! Up to this point, commercial advertising was severely limited by imprecise estimations of “targeted” group audiences. Say for instance, you’re Neutrogena. You want to pitch your product line to females ages 12-25. You have to pay MTV x amount of dollars for 30 seconds. Well, not every “audience” member falls in that demographic. And not every audience member has bad skin, or a use for your product. So while your blanketed efforts might be successful in maintaining brand recognition (and this is a diminishing return in the Tivo-era), they don’t effectively or efficiently translate into sales.

Contrast that with a 14-year old girl who does a search query for “bad skin.” With ad-words, Google can list Neutrogena products via online market-places (E-bay and Amazon). And now with Double-Click, Google can offer rich media advertisements on the destination web-sites.

Now, the privacy concern is a legitimate one. But Google does an excellent job of communicating its policies. They have multiple blogs dedicated to explaining their corporate practices. They FORCE you to read the small print before signing up with their e-mail or desktop services. They stuck to their “do no evil” mantra in the face of a DOJ subpoena, and they’ve agreed to scramble private data after 18 months.

Moreover, its becoming increasingly apparent that the privacy concern is a generational one. It could even be the case that individuals would be amenable to targeted advertising, if done right. That is, consumers would welcome suggested long-tail niche items based on a nuanced understanding of their preferences. Internet-based distributors (such as Netflix, Buy.com, Amazon, etc.) are able to provide and deliver a wide array of products since they don’t have to worry about low-demand products collecting dust on sales-floors. And this competition demands greater innovation from the mainstream players to hold steady on market-share (someone please buy me an iPhone?).

Challenges
By far the major obstacle in Google’s way is the monopoly of broadband service providers. The nitty-gritty behind the issues of net-neutrality and trusted computing are beyond me, but fundamentals of the issue are clear: Cable networks have everything to lose by providing Google with a broadband network capable of streaming high-definition videos on the internet, and since they have no competition, we shouldn’t expect any service-upgrades in the short term.

Meanwhile, countries like Japan and China are laying down network grids that are far superior to anything the United States can offer. And you only have to look at the following photo to realize that connectivity determines the difference between the haves and the have-nots:


Why is this important?
I recently saw that Google has been pitching its AdWords platform (targeted search-term advertisements) to the Health Care industry as pre-emptive retaliation against the oncoming criticisms sparked by Michael Moore’s Sicko.

If you have a company that professes to “do no evil,” given net-neutrality, they can level the playing field in the realm of public relations by offering their advertisements at a reasonable cost. A critic would claim that Google is playing both sides. I’m more of the mind that Google helps to facilitate fair conversations.

This is especially important in the pharmaceutical industry, another pseudo-monopoly that spends more money on marketing established drugs and their knock-offs then researching new drugs to treat existing conditions.

By opening up narrowly-defined targeted advertising on a platform as diverse as the internet, Google helps to equalize opportunity in the marketplace of ideas. The transparency exposes large corporations such as Coca-Cola and Nike to informational sites critical of their labor practices, which compromises their brand management and (hopefully) demands greater accountability.

At the end of the day, a film-maker like Michael Moore can get away with presenting an admittedly biased documentary because he knows that people will go searching for information to fact-check his side of the issue. If Google directs the access to information, presuming they stay true to their “do no evil” philosophy, we all benefit from it.

Categories: Uncategorized
Tagged: , , ,

6 responses so far ↓

  • Anonymous // July 4, 2007 at 7:06 pm | Reply

    Hey,
    I am a friend of Megan Taylor’s, she sent me the link to your site. I find it quite hilarious. Anyways, great writing, although I did find one typo, just to keep you on your toes, or maybe I am dumb, but you wrote Business “ethnics” on your google post. Keep up the entertaining work.
    -tillman

  • Jon // July 5, 2007 at 12:17 am | Reply

    Thanks Tillman. You are correct… most shadiness in business is performed by the Man, who, we all know, is White (not of Hispanic-origin).

    I’ve heard hilarious stories about you via Danny and Cam. Thanks for reading.

  • Megan // July 5, 2007 at 2:11 pm | Reply

    “Diminishing returns” are questioned: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/03/business/media/03adco.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

  • Jon // July 6, 2007 at 8:32 pm | Reply

    Wow. If that’s true, it’s incredible. Although it still seems to presuppose brand-recognition (which I guess is worthwhile for the heavyweights) and I would like to know who’s paying for the research.

  • Now Hosted by: Wordpress « Snarky Behavior // October 7, 2007 at 5:57 am | Reply

    [...] much as I’m a fan of Google, I was not 100% happy with the Blogger platform.  The rich text composer frequently messed up the [...]

  • Joe // October 11, 2007 at 5:05 am | Reply

    I wholeheartedly approve of this hearty commendation of the large and largely inscrutable corporation for which I work, which is systematically organizing information about you and millions like you in a vast network of secure datacenters. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Leave a Comment