By Ryan Anderson, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc.
The ANA has devised a clever system to the badges provided to each attendee at the Annual Conference. As is typical of most conferences, these 3x4 cards provide your name and the company you represent. This creates an interesting social scenario whereby most of us do a face-chest-face evaluation throughout the daily procession. Largely this is done out of curiosity, but in some instances this is a tactic used to predetermine the worth of a potential conversation.
The clever part comes with their color-coding system. If your badge has a green stripe, this means you are an ANA member or staff person. If your badge has a red stripe, this means you are vendor or sponsor. By providing this simple visual clue, we are able to easily identify who are the buyers and who are the sellers in this advertising ecosystem.
The reason I share this fact is because when Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO of Google, spoke at today’s general session, I was curious what color badge he received at registration (though he probably didn’t stand in queue). On one hand, Google was just ranked #7 in Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2009 and has shown year over year increases in ad spending. So one could surely state “green.” On the other hand, Google earned ad revenues in the area of $21 billion in 2008, so one could just as easily state “red.”
Early on in his speech, Schmidt said matter-of-factly that Google is in the advertising business – that 97-98% of revenue comes from advertising, mostly in the right margin of search results. But later in the Q&A session, he discussed being in the information business – needing to innovate as fast as possible, seizing the opportunities ahead to provide consumers with the best access to this “information explosion” we’re all encountering. “If Google doesn’t seize those opportunities, someone else will” said Schmidt.
This green/red debate reminded me of Chris Anderson’s book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, where he contends that the most effective price is no price at all. Now free doesn’t mean profitless, it just means that the route from product to revenue is indirect. In Google’s case, they are providing an amazingly effective product (information) that happens to be free to the consumer, where their indirect (and profitable) route to revenue is advertising.
I’m not sure if the ANA staff has printed any, but I think the stripe on Google badges should be some color in between green and red…perhaps brown (the unfortunate mixture of these two colors).
For additional coverage of Schmidt's speech, check out New York Times reporter Stuart Elliot's blog post here.