Google vs. “Sicko”

Google ad sales rep Lauren Turner spoke out against Michael Moore’s “Sicko” on a corporate blog, but didn’t stop there. She went on to tell the healthcare industry that Google was there to help them fight back. The industry could counter “Sicko,” she suggested, by buying Google ads promoting all of their good qualities.

I’m all for corporate blogging — transparency is good. In this case, what’s transparent is the fact that Google (or a Google employee – remember, this was a corporate blog, not a corporate statement) feels that advertising is a fine way for deep-pocketed corporations not just to sell products, but to cloud debate on an issue that affects the whole public sphere.

Machinist: But it wants us to believe that we should resolve public policy disputes through search marketing? Advertising is no longer just for selling soap — it’s for democracy, too. Note, first, the irony: Michael Moore accuses the industry of throwing up a haze of marketing, P.R. and lobbying to hide its practices, and Google tells Big Healthcare to respond by buying up more ads.

Turner later posted an apology for the post, but only for her error in framing Google’s policy on the blog; the idea of pushing AdWords/AdSense as a great way to shape public opinion, rather than just to sell products, stood.

Music: Devendra Banhart :: Anchor

8 Replies to “Google vs. “Sicko””

  1. Google should remain a search engine and not become a perception management pimp.

  2. Google seems to be well on its way to becoming a heavyweight corporate bully. Be aware of anything that you read or see on the mighty Google search engine. Google may be shading the results or oh, actually, have a few of their own “results” already cooked up just for your very own eyes (their data profile of your thoughts and habits grows with each one of your searches on G…). Consider using smaller more obscure search engines.

  3. Google should remain a search engine and not become a perception management pimp.

    I can’t believe people still think that Google is a search engine company… Google is an advertising company, and I don’t know why people think this incident is out of character?

    They were trying to sell advertising to people who need it… It’s not like they were offering special placement in search results or anything…

  4. Sean, I’m with you that Goog is an advertising company – that’s pretty much their only source of revenue. But when advertising companies encourage their clients who generally sell products to sell politics instead, we have a situation where democracy is for sale. OK, democracy has always been for sale, but this would be a new and very pernicious example of that – one where public opinion is shaped by the highest bidder.

    If the internet is an inherently democratic medium, underwritten by AdSense, and Google+AdSense is actively pushing a particular public policy tack rather than mere products & services, then we have a problem with our democratic medium.

  5. Google isn’t pushing a “particular public policy”, they are selling advertising to whoever buys it. That “Health Advertising Blog” is simply advertising it’s own services to a particular industry.

  6. Google isn’t pushing a “particular public policy”

    Well, yes, they are. Maybe not officially, but that was the point of Turner’s original blog entry – that large corporations not only could, but should fight the “attack” generated by Moore’s movie to cast the health industry as a whole in a positive light. You might disagree that it’s wrong to do that, but that’s exactly what Turner was doing.

  7. But when advertising companies encourage their clients who generally sell products to sell politics instead, we have a situation where democracy is for sale.

    Google is not doing anything new. While the Google rep. was fairly crude, what they are doing is not so different from what advertising departments at newspapers and magazines already do. They know what articles are going to be published ahead of time and call up “interested parties” to see if they want to take advantage of the opportunity to put an ad by the article. Product or politics, it doesn’t matter.

    I suppose that means democracy has aways been for sale, but the concern here is SCALE. What do you do with a company like Google that makes it’s money on advertising, but attracts people with it’s vaults of knowledge, and increasingly controls so much accessible human knowledge?

    Yet Another Big Brother (YABB)?

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