Wednesday, May 7, 2008

getting googly eyed over Google

So Google has hit South Africa! There's great excitement in the media industry around the development of a local Google office over the past six months. Stafford Masie who has been appointed Country Manager is what we at FNB call a homecomer. He's part of the homecoming revolution (this is a big FNB initiative) of South Africans who have lived and worked abroad and are now returning home. He's also got another homecomer working with him on key projects Peter Brooke-Sumner, who has just finished a stint with Google in London. Now these guys are devilishly internet savy and really reflect what you would expect from the Google brand. They're young, dynamic and fascinating to listen to. They bring with them a digital sophistication and comfortability that comes from having operated in global markets. I've heard Stafford present just some of Google's opportunities and plans for SA on two different occasions and on both accounts I was left wondering whether there was indeed life BG - "life before Google". These guys have no shortage of interest in their business. In fact they must be doubling up on their vitamins to keep pace with the meeting requests. There a lot of googly eyed people running around! What will be really interesting to see, is which companies show real and deep advertising commitment first. In SA there is a lot of dabbling going on, but so far advertising commitment to online in general, is still tiny compared to the advertising share of market of television and print in this country. At just under R 280 million out of a total of R 34 billion spent in mainstream media over the course of 2007, it's so way off global benchmarks which will top 10% of global adspend this year. Of course, we don't know how much Google has been getting because they don't and won't ever account formally for in any official figures, but given the low "official" base of spend, there's huge potential. With their plans to launch Google maps and also extend into the lucrative mobile market it's easy to believe that they will be able to create a real value proposition in the market and their success will also contribute to an overall growth and acceptance of online and mobile offerings in this country. When a global powerhouse like Google thinks SA is worth playing in, it can only be great for the industry. It's happening! Along with Admob's December ratings which revealed that SA users served over 144 million page impressions on Admob's network, placing SA third behind only India and the States on the list of countries with the most active users - you know there's something to get googly eyed about.

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