Faaez Samadi
May 7, 2018

Google APAC head: We are nothing like Facebook

Rich with its own user data, Google’s business model protects it from the recent scandal that has befallen its social network rival, according to Karim Temsamani.

Karim Temsamani at Growing with Google in Singapore
Karim Temsamani at Growing with Google in Singapore

While being a keen observer of the fallout from Facebook’s ongoing Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Google’s president of Asia-Pacific operations said there is no danger of such an issue occurring with the company’s own user data.

Speaking exclusively to Campaign Asia-Pacific, Karim Temsamani said the discussion that has emerged since the scandal regarding privacy and user data is extremely important, but Google was watching from a safe distance.

“It’s a very important debate to have, but the point I will make, which is very important, is that we have a very different business to Facebook,” he emphasised. “Importantly as well, users are doing very different things and expect very different things from us than they do from other actors in the industry, including Facebook.

“[We have] the clarity that when someone comes to Google, they want to get something done. They want to search for a product or service they’re interested in, they want to get somewhere using Maps. So the intent from a user perspective is very different.”

Temsamani said it was critical to make that clear that Google “hasn’t seen any of the types of attacks on the system that Facebook has seen”, and that the company remains constantly vigilant about the safety of its user data.

“We provide users with transparency, choice and control [over their privacy],” he said. “It’s something that we will continuously evolve and we take it very seriously. But we have a very strong record of keeping users safe from an online perspective.”

Temsamani spoke to Campaign at the Growing with Google conference in Singapore, where Google highlighted some its products and partnerships that have helped local businesses get off the ground in the digital landscape.

Campaign's Faaez Samadi and Google's Karim Temsamani

Asked about Google’s enormous share of the digital advertising industry, and how that is influencing its discussions with agencies and businesses, Temsamani said it was important to remember that Google is “only a part of the ecosystem”.

“There is tremendous choice, both from an online perspective but also from a traditional media perspective, available to users and certainly advertisers every day,” he said. “Many other companies in the ecosystem have tremendous reach and can provide impact to advertisers.

“We really strive to provide advertisers, through our products, a very effective and measurable way to reach customers. So as we do that, we totally understand that we represent only a portion of their overall spend, and that they will continue to have other choices.”

It all comes down to providing good ads and a good experience to all—advertisers, users and publishers—Temsamani said. Otherwise everyone loses out.

“Bad experiences essentially ruin users’ willingness to access the information they care about, and can go all the way to them installing an ad blocker, which is bad for publishers who are trying to make money out of the ecosystem,” he explained. “So it’s very important for us to ensure we remove bad actors and continue to innovate in the formats we’re providing.”

For Google itself, Temsamani said the importance of APAC continues to grow, with global products being developed on the basis of Asia-Pacific user insights. He pointed to YouTube’s offline feature, which was primarily developed for India but is now worldwide and integrated into other products such as maps.

The next stage, which Temsamani said users will see more of, are new products designed specifically for APAC, such as mobile payments service Tez in India.

“So more and more you’re going to see the APAC influence,” he said. “From an ads perspective, the influence of advertisers and consumers in the region is going to have an impact at a global level, which makes our roles and every marketer’s role in this region really exciting.”

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