Google : Alphabet Inc (US)

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In the space of just a few short years, Google knocked Microsoft off its throne to become arguably the world's most powerful - possibly the most feared - technology company with involvement in a vast array of different areas. The company describes its mission as "to develop services that significantly improve the lives of as many people as possible". To that end it has built upon its core offering to spin out a kaleidoscope of additional services, ranging from global mapping and Android mobile software to healthcare research and driverless cars. Uniquely, for now at least, virtually all its add-ons are free to use, paid for by the awe-inspiring success of the company's advertising programme. Google may not be the world's biggest online company by revenues (that's still Amazon) but it's the most valuable by far with a market value of over $460bn by mid 2015. Yet Google's position at the top of the digital advertising tree is under threat from an even faster-growing business, Facebook. At the same time, its steps into hardware development have so far been patchy. In 2011, the group took steps to monetise Android by acquiring one of its first licensors, US handset manufacturer Motorola. Less than two years later, though, it sold that business on to Lenovo of China after failing to boost performance. Its Google Glass computer-powered eyewear also failed to find a ready audience. In 2015, the group announced plans to restructure, splitting out its more fanciful research-based operations as separate units under the umbrella of new parent company Alphabet Inc.

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Adbrands Company Profiles provide a detailed analysis of the history and current operations of leading advertisers, agencies and brands worldwide, and include a critical summary which identifies key strengths and weaknesses. Adbrands Account Assignments tracks account management for the world's leading brands and companies, including details of which advertising agency handles which accounts in which countries for major markets. Subscribers may access the following website links:

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Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 6th Apr 2017: A stream of further major advertisers around the globe suspended advertising on Google's YouTube and third-party Google Display Network sites following a report from The Times of London newspaper two weeks ago which demonstrated that ads from blue-chip companies were appearing on or alongside extremist and hate group content. Google's chief business officer Philip Schindler has given several interviews in an attempt to play down the size of the problem. He told tech blog Recode that only very few ads had slipped through Google's brand safety filters onto inappropriate content. "I don’t want to take away from the importance of the problem and the fact that we need to get it right, but the numbers are tiny, tiny." Google says that inappropriate videos had attracted less than 1/1000th of a percent of leading advertisers’ total impressions. Schindler said Google is developing more rigorous and wide-ranging filters and is working with independent monitors such as ComScore to oversee brand safety. However, he also suggested that "over the last few weeks, someone has decided to put a bit more of a spotlight on the problem". Asked by Recode if he thought anyone was actively campaigning against Google, he said "That’s not how I would say it. There’s a lot of spotlight on the problem at the moment. And advertisers just don’t like something like this to be dragged out into the public. And they’re unhappy with that." Though the story has been widely reported in the media since it was first published by The Times, newspapers in general and titles owned by News Corporation in particular - including The Times and the Wall Street Journal - have arguably been most vocal in their criticism. News Corp has long campaigned against the damage inflicted on creators of quality news coverage by opportunistic "clickbait" websites fed by programmatic advertising. News Corp Australia this week launched a trade advertising campaign asking advertisers: "Do you really know where your ads are today? News does."

Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd Mar 2017: In the latest backlash against the lack of transparency in media buying, multiple leading advertisers in the UK, and now in the US as well, have suspended all advertising on Google's YouTube site and on the 2m or so third-party websites served under the Google Display Network umbrella. This follows a report by The Times newspaper of London which revealed that banners for blue-chip advertisers are being displayed regularly alongside extremist videos on YouTube and on the websites of neo-nazi, homophobic, Islamic terrorist and other hate groups. Google uses digital "brand safety" filters to identify videos or third-party websites that contain potentially sensitive or inappropriate content and block ads on them, but these are failing to spot much of the offending material. By the beginning of this week more than 250 major UK advertisers including HSBC, Toyota, Volkswagen, McDonald's, the UK Government, the BBC, Marks & Spencer and L'Oreal had suspended their advertising. So too did the UK media buying division of Havas on behalf of all its local clients. Havas group CEO Yannick Bollore subsequently backpedalled from that decision, saying the suspension was implemented unilaterally by UK management without consultation with him. There would be no change to policy in other markets, he said. No other media buying agency has yet pulled its advertising, but all have been in contact with their clients to discuss the possibility of further action. However, in a dramatic escalation of the crisis, a number of major US companies joined the boycott yesterday, including AT&T, Verizon, car rental giant Enterprise Holdings and Johnson & Johnson. The latter pair suspended all YouTube and Google Display Network advertising globally. In all cases, PPC ads on the main Google search service are unaffected by the suspensions.

As point man for the boycott, Google UK MD Ronan Harris was the first to respond with a promise to improve controls. "We believe strongly in the freedom of speech and expression on the web - even when that means we don’t agree with the views expressed. At the same time, we recognize the need to have strict policies that define where Google ads should appear. The intention of these policies is to prohibit ads from appearing on pages or videos with hate speech, gory or offensive content. In the vast majority of cases, our policies work as intended. However, with millions of sites in our network and 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, we recognize that we don’t always get it right. In a very small percentage of cases, ads appear against content that violates our monetization policies... We've begun a thorough review of our ads policies and brand controls, and we will be making changes in the coming weeks to give brands more control over where their ads appear." The timing of the boycott couldn't have been worse for Google, coinciding with the Advertising Week conference in London. Matt Brittin, Google's president of EMEA business & operations, was already booked to appear and addressed the subject immediately. "We are sorry to anybody that’s been affected. We are working hard to improve policy, controls and enforcement. There will be more specifics very soon, and we are working on that with the industry."

Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Mar 2017: Google is the latest media giant to launch its own custom-built streaming service. YouTube TV will launch in multiple regional US markets this Spring, with live streaming of all four major networks as well as ESPN, Fox News, USA Network and more than 30 other cable channels included as standard. Almost all of these channels come from the four big free-to-air owners, Disney, Fox, CBS and NBC. Other channelowners such as Time Warner and Viacom have yet to commit. The starting price is $35 per month, around half most cable packages, with no contract or fixed term commitment. There's also an unlimited cloud-based DVR service so subscribers can record as much content as they want for later or repeat viewing.

Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Feb 2017: President Trump's "travel ban" encouraged an unprecedented pushback from CEOs of major US corporations, reflecting the wider public disapproval of such a blinkered and ill-judged executive order. Perhaps the most high-profile protest came from Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who personally joined public protesters at San Francisco airport. However, other tech bosses including Apple's Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft's Satya Nadella, Twitter's Jack Dorsey, Uber's Travis Kalanick and AirBnB's Mark Chesky, among others, also voiced their opposition to the ruling. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said Trump's actions are "so are so un-American it pains us all. Worse, these actions will make America less safe (through hatred and loss of allies) rather than more safe." Starbucks' Howard Schultz wrote to all staff to voice his dismay over Trump's policies on Muslim refugees, Mexico, and the Affordable Care Act and vowed to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years in the 75 countries where Starbucks has stores. In a joint letter to staff, Ford Motors executive chairman Bill Ford and CEO Mark Fields stated "We do not support this policy or any other that goes against our values as a company." Nike's Mark Parker also wrote to all staff to express the company's opposition to the travel ban. "Nike stands together against bigotry and any form of discrimination. We've learned that on the field of play, where fairness and mutual respect are the rule, not the exception." In the latest development, Amazon, Microsoft and Expedia, all headquartered in the state of Washington, are lending their support to a legal challenge to the travel ban mounted by the state's attorney general Bob Ferguson. However, brands opposing Trump can also expect repercussions from his supporters. Starbucks and Uber both suffered boycott calls on Twitter as a result of their stance, and similar anti-protest protests are inevitable.

Adbrands Weekly Update 2nd Feb 2017: Alphabet Inc's 4Q profits came in slightly under expectations as a result of a tax charge, but revenues were well ahead of forecast. For the year, topline surged by over 20% to $90.27bn, while net income was up 19% to $19.48bn. Perhaps the most notable development for the final quarter was a huge surge in the contribution from so-called "other bets", which comprise non-Google operations such as Waymo self-driving cars and Nest connected devices. These continue to rack up large losses - down slightly year on year but still over $1bn for 4Q - but their revenues jumped by 75% to $262m. Within the main Google business too non-advertising revenues, such as app store and Nexus or Pixel hardware sales, jumped by 62% to over $3.4bn. However, search advertising continues to dominate the group's revenue stream, contributing over 86% of total sales for the final quarter. At constant currency rates, this marked the 20th consecutive quarter in which Google's own online properties have posted annual growth of 20% or more in advertising sales.

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