Google Chief Economist: Marketing Is The New Finance

Brian Morrissey, my Twitter friend and one of the smarter hacks covering digital marketing, interviewed Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist. I attended Varian’s presentation at a recent SMX show, and his message stuck in my brain like Super Glue. How to succeed in search advertising? “Test and test and test again.”

Brian elicited a few nice quotes and gems of Google intention.


“The biggest problem in advertising has been the performance measures,” said Varian. “In search engine advertising, you have the click and the conversion. It makes it much more easy. In brand advertising, the difficult part is the measures are much more diffuse. We hope to use math to bring more clarity to that.”

Um…sounds to me a lot like the whole engagement conundrum the ARF tried to tackle: how to qualify exposures of media, considering context, and link them to a business result. Will Google figure out what the ARF and its industry participants couldn’t? I doubt it will be that easy.


“Marketing is the new finance,” Varian said. “Just as finance has become more quantitative because of what happened in the 1970s, you’ll see marketing do that.”… “If you’re adding a lot of value, those jobs are good,” Varian said. “Computers are good at doing non-creative tasks.”

I agree with these statements.


????????“TV will come into the 21st century,” Varian said. “It’s going to be a lot easier to measure response and target than it is today.”

And Brian had the guts to call the obvious about the threat facing his publication’s parent company’s biggest cash cow:

The biggest opportunity for Google: TV advertising. All TV ad spending in 2007 (network, cable, spot and syndicated) totaled almost $77.5 billion, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Google sees TV as a market ripe for disruption, since ads are poorly targeted and difficult to measure.

Brian’s full story is here.

Disclosure: I used to work with Nielsen after it acquired my last company, and underscore that Nielsen is an admirable company with a proud heritage.  I’m proud of my brief history there! However, it’s an interesting one to watch as it strives to transform itself into to the digital world and transition through the disruption of a private-equity takeover. One question people have asked me: Are its competitors traditional players like TNS? Or new players, particularly Google? Probably both, just one is short-term while the other is long term. Frenemy will become common language to the old research world.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

Join the Conversation


  1. I think google is over-simplifying the opportunities on TV. They have a tinted glass because their world, paid search, is quantifyable. What advertising on TV allows is adding to the share-of-voice for your brand. It is already measurable through consumer research technique (even though a lot of improvements can be made here..) I dont think TV will ever become a direct response medium like paid search.

  2. mjmangal: I agree with you, but especially this one: “though a lot of
    improvements can be made here”. Television is so lacking accurate user
    targeting and relevance that it's almost unbearable to watch…at least the
    traditional commercial-supported kind.

  3. I do agree with this article regarding lacking accuracy with TV ads target audience. Unless they come up with innovative solution to improve this. There's always new things coming up and we thought impossible to do, we'll see if that happens.

  4. i think tv ads may help. not so many consumers can use computers unlike tv ads, any simple individual can response and comment to your ads. this may help because tv advertising is a basic marketing strategy.

  5. Marketing will soon see some major changes. There is already holographic technology in development and this will surely bring a new “smell” to the marketing department and of course, creativity will still be an important part of the job.
    Los Angeles loans

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