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Google Projected to Beat Facebook in Display Ads, and Why the Tech Giant is in New York

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You know those online display ads that seem to know where you’ve shopped on the web recently? Facebook had been making the most money on them, but new forecasts suggest Google will earn the most revenue from display ads this year.

What does this clash of titans mean for mere mortals? For one, Google’s lead isn’t just coming from tech. There are real human beings hard at work selling those ads. Google has about 3,000 people working in New York. And about half of them are marketing folks. That’s one reason the company bought this gargantuan building on Eighth avenue. It’s not tall, but it sure is wide–one of the city’s largest buildings.

“We have scooters in the New York office,” says Jon Kaplan, Google’s managing director for U.S. sales, ” because it takes so long to get to your next meeting.” 

I asked him why his company needed so many boots on the ground, here in New York. And he gave me an answer I’d been hearing from Startups and others all week.

“New York is certainly the hub of the media industry,” said Kaplan, “as well as many, many customers who are based in this area, so this really becomes the place where you have to do business, if you’re gonna be in technology.”

There was an important book that came out at the dawn of the internet age, the idea was the death of distance: the digital world means it doesn’t matter where you are, we’ll just connect digitally. That’s not exactly the case. 

“People still wanna see you,” said Kaplan. “And that’s why we’ve invested so much in New York — because there’s a tremendous amount of activity that’s happening here every day. Agency discussions that are happening every day… client meetings. They wanna hear from you, and distance — that’s something distance can’t solve. 

 Is it really about the meetings though? Or is it also about when you’re trying to attract the best talent? Kaplan said that New York was basically built for a company like Google — and it’s employees:

“Well, I think what’s been incredible to see, is I started here about nine years ago, and we were only a sales office at that point.   We have grown to be one of the biggest engineering centers, outside of California, in the country. We added over 750 people last year to Google’s New York office alone. And so, I think the point is, we continue to hire aggressively. This continues to be the hotbed of technology talent, and for those people who don’t really wanna live the California lifestyle, New York, there is a place for them in New York. And the technology giants are hiring.”

But while we may have been talking to Kaplan and others all week about how great New York is for tech companies, we haven’t forgotten that Silicon Valley is still at the top. At least, not  after we get reminders from people like Queena Kim, Marketplace’s tech reporter based out there. 

“I just wanted to remind you, you know, that before there was Silicon Alley, there was Silicon Valley,” said Queena. “Let’s trace the money. Last year, in 2011, venture capital firms invested $11.8 billion in Silicon valley, number two: Boston, with $2.8 billion, and then comes number three, New York with $2.7 billion.”

Wherever you are, it’s good to have an outside perspective, and Queena’s was valuable after a week covering New York’s tech scene. We won’t be afraid to spent a lot of time in New York going forward — but we’ll also keep digging into places all over the country that are reshaping our lives with tech.

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