Google's 4 color glossy personalized report to Adwords subscribers is a multi-million dollar expense. Is this smart advertising from a marketing behemoth or simply bad form from a company that purports to be Green?
Last week, I received an envelope in the mail containing a wonderful eight page fold out brochure of the style and quality I'd expect for an invitation to William & Kate's wedding. However, rather than promoting a fabulous gala event for the rich and famous, it is entitled Your Q4 2011 Performance Review - Google's update to me on the performance of my AdWords campaigns over the past quarter. It even had my url on the front cover.
My first reaction on seeing this brochure was "Wow! - I feel really special." Lovely, heavy, bleached card stock, four color printing, with my website printed on the front - it's beautiful. Upon opening it I was impressed with the simple effectiveness in which the data was displayed, and amazed at the overall quality. After a few minutes, I felt my mood shift from feeling special to dismayed, as I realized there was nothing that could not have been presented as well, if not better, on my personal Google AdWords portal.
Could someone at Google explain how spending over $24M on a mailer minimizes environmental impact.
First, there's the element of cost. While Google does not disclose its number of subscribers, we do know they posted $28 Billion dollars in ad revenue last year - so we can do a ball-park guess on the cost. If we assume an arbitrary average of $10,000 per subscriber per year, that gives us a total subscriber count of 2.8 million. Assume growth this year, and we can safely say they now have over 3 million subscribers. If anything this number is low, but it will do. I estimate the cost to print the brochure at about $2 each, times 3 million subscribers - that's $6M four times a year = $24 Million.
Now, in context of the $28 Billion, $24 Million per year is loose change. But it's still $24 Million. That's $24 Million that could have been used internally to accelerate some of the cool, Cone of Silence things Google is developing. Perhaps it could have been used to do more development on Google+ so that Apps users could have used their Apps id from Day One. Or heck, do something silly like set up a foundation to provide computers to every school in America.
A more troubling issue is the sheer waste. How many trees in the Amazon Rainforest and the State of Oregon (Go Ducks!) were obliterated to produce this mailer? And for what - to give me information I could get online?
Finally, and most troubling of all, is the fact that this type of mailer is completely inconsistent with Google's highly public Green project. On the home page of Google.com/Green, they proudly state, "At Google, we've worked hard to minimize the environmental impact of our services." I'd love someone at Google to explain to me how spending over $24M on a lavish, overindulgent, superfluous and environmentally irresponsible mailer minimizes environmental impact.
What do you think? - Answer the poll on the right.