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Sorrell: Google Going From 'Frenemy' To 'Froe'; WPP CEO Grills GOOG, YHOO, MSFT At Cannes

This story was written by David Kaplan.
Perhaps the title of the Cannes International Advertising Festival panel"From Metrics to Brand: Online's Next Challenge"-- was deliberately bland. But the chance to see the outspoken WPP Group's CEO Sir Martin Sorrell moderate a panel with Hillary Schneider, EVP of Yahoo's (NSDQ: YHOO) global partner solutions division, Kevin Johnson, president of Microsoft's (NSDQ: MSFT) platforms and services division and Henrique de Castro, managing director of European sales at Google (NSDQ: GOOG), must have felt like a trashy talk show with the parties of a bitter love triangle. Adweek recorded the play-by-play, with Sorrell taking aim at Google on a number of fronts. Microsoft's Johnson appeared happy to back him upnot hard to imagine given it's only been a week since Google and Yahoo solidified their search ad pact as Microsoft's bid for the latter company finally collapsed.

-- Frenemy to 'froe'?: The perception that Google has deeply encroached upon ad agency territory is what first led Sorrell to dub the search giant a "frenemy." Maybe he's gotten tired of that appellation. He's now saying the relationship between the two are "froes." As he said in an interview with Reuters a few weeks ago, Sorrell pointed that out that he's spending $850 million with Google, so there is some need there on his and other agencies' part. But Sorrell and others are increasingly worried that Google is doing end-runs around the ad shops and going directly to clientsdespite repeated assurances from Google that this was not the case. Asked bluntly if Google is going back on its wordor if it's just a case of one hand not knowing what the other is doingDe Castro responded that, yes, the company has some deals with advertisers. But he added that Google prefers doing business with agencies. Doubtful that Sorrell was assuaged.

-- GOOG + YHOO = Monopoly?: Sorrell lobbed a softball to Microsoft's Johnson, asking if the deal between Google and Yahoo could have a deleterious impact on the search market. Johnson: "We think the industry is better served if there are 'n' number of players and 'n' is greater than one." Yahoo's Schneider defended the arrangement, saying it would lead to a more open search marketplace. Also, she insisted that Yahoo was not surrendering and still considered itself an independent player in the market. 

By David Kaplan