Google’s Brand Hurt by Sexist Memo, But Ad Revenue Isn't?
Marketers invest oodles in Google ads, but they woke up Monday to #googlememo and #GoogleManifesto hashtags. The Twitter trends highlighted a sexist screed that circulated in the powerful Silicon Valley tech firm. Chances are, the search giant’s quarterly advertising revenue will remain in the billions, but will the public call for an Uber-style leadership ouster? And what will that mean for marketers?
Google’s search engine is so dominant that many call it a monopoly, unless they’re looking at the shopping ad splits that go to Amazon and possibly now QVC/HSN. Nevertheless, marketers tweeting about the memo on Monday didn’t bring up AdWords.
Unlike the now-fixed YouTube situation in April, when brands found their ads on hate sites, the memo controversy wasn’t visually associated with specific marketers. (Yahoo Finance showed Alphabet stock prices remained steady on Monday.)
What may be important for marketers to watch, though, is whether public outrage about Google’s alleged internal indifference to the memo may spur public outrage similar to what prompted Uber shareholders to oust CEO Travis Kalanick. (Kalanick’s June ouster came after a former female employee blogged about an alleged pattern of gender discrimination at the ride-sharing tech company.)
That means the public may be less tolerant of gender discrimination, in general, and brands may want to note these audience attitudes for future marketing efforts.
This wave of public concern about sexism at tech companies is a far different from the reaction a woman received in 2015 when she took on her former employer, a venture capital firm that funded startups in Silicon Valley. She alleged she’d suffered from gender discrimination and what’s termed “brogrammer” culture. Ellen Pao didn’t win her lawsuit and the headlines quickly died down.
This attitude change is especially apparent in notable reactions from men in the tech space. On Sunday, PBS.org cites:
Yonatun Zunger, who was a “distinguished engineer” at Google until about one week ago, wrote in a Medium post that the memo’s author, besides presenting an unsubstantiated case for the biological differences between genders, misunderstands what it means to be an engineer.
“Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers … All of these traits which the manifesto described as ‘female’ are the core traits which make someone successful at engineering,” he wrote.
Some on Twitter supported the unnamed Google engineer’s assertions about female biology preventing tech aptitude. On Twitter, these posts also appear:
— Richard Porter (@richardporter) August 7, 2017
The AdWords team, where every dataset is split BY GENDER, must be having a hard time with all the heads exploding. #GoogleManifesto
— Kevin (@kevinvzb) August 7, 2017
— Nate Campbell (@N8istootall) August 7, 2017
Google’s new VP for diversity, integrity and governance, Danielle Brown, issued a statement cited by FoxNews.com that illustrates more about what the search giant may change:
“Many of you have read an internal document shared by someone in our engineering organization, expressing views on the natural abilities and characteristics of different genders, as well as whether one can speak freely of these things at Google. And like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. I'm not going to link to it here as it's not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.”
Writing that Google has taken a strong stand on the issue of diversity, Brown adds, “Strong stands elicit strong reactions. Changing a culture is hard, and it's often uncomfortable. But I firmly believe Google is doing the right thing, and that's why I took this job.”
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.
Related story: Uber Ouster a Warning for Brands