Another Google Ad Exec Leaves; Tidbits from an Interview with David Rosenblatt

Google has lost yet another top ad executive. David Rosenblatt, president of global display advertising for the search giant, emailed friends and colleagues to say he’s leaving the company a year after the acquisition of display-ad firm DoubleClick, where he was CEO, according to the New York Times.

Rosenblatt’s departure raises questions about Google’s ability to move more forcefully beyond search ads into banner and video advertising, which is still the majority of online ad spending. His job was to shepherd Google’s entry into display ads as its next big business opportunity. The company’s pinning hopes on a Nasdaq-like advertising exchange, originally developed by DoubleClick, that was set for a relaunch later this year.

Google has been losing a lot of ad executives lately, most notably Tim Armstrong, who recently took the CEO job at Time Warner’s AOL unit. Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Google’s president of Asia-Pacific and Latin America, left a few weeks ago to become CEO-in-residence at the venture capital firm Accel Partners. And Omid Kordestani, Google’s top sales exec, left that job recently to be a senior adviser to CEO Eric Schmidt and cofounders and presidents Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Clearly, some of them simply want to run their own show, as Rosenblatt has apparently told friends, but it surely doesn’t help Google as it tries to prove it’s more than a one-trick pony. Unless Google moves quickly and convincingly to replace him, it may face new questions about how serious it is going after what is, after all, its most promising new business opportunity. UPDATE: Google did indeed move fast. It named Henrique De Castro, currently managing director for European Sales and Media Platforms, as managing director for Global Display and YouTube Advertising.

When I spoke with Rosenblatt recently, he gave little indication of his move. He talked up Google’s opportunity to use the ad exchange to change the game in display, by bringing airline-style yield management techniques to make online ad space more valuable and using better targeting to pitch relevant ads to groups of people instead of simply running them on related sites. “We have an opportunity to radically change the economics of this industry,” he told me. But he added: “I don’t think we know 100% what the answer is yet.”

Perhaps that was the telling comment. With others such as Yahoo’s Right Media and OpenX’s Market exchange, already moving quickly on that front, Google can’t afford to wait very long to come up with that answer.

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