... languishing one-time market leaders Yahoo and AOL.
Google's supremacy can be attributed to substantial investments in technology and a change in the way it approaches advertising agencies - especial those holding the purse-strings of the globe's top advertisers.
According to the Wall Street Journal, many ad agencies were initially suspicious of Google because it also worked directly with advertisers, cutting agencies out of the equation. Since when Google has embarked on a charm offensive to win over the agencies.
Google wooed the Madison Avenue prima donnas with a surgical precision normally associated with a P&G marketing campaign. It assigned more than one hundred employees - among them former ad agency staff - to work closely with the top ad shops. Larry and Sergei's charm commandos also armed themselves with voluminous research touting the results advertisers can get from display-ad campaigns.
And Google also hired former ad agency creative directors to offer free help to ad shops and their clients in shaping interactive promotions on YouTube.
The strategy is beginning to pay off at ad agencies such as Aegis Group's iProspect, which represents advertisers such as Gap and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Two years ago, iProspect asked Google to provide a dedicated Mountain View staffer to help it navigate Google's array of ad services and get better results.
According to iProspect ceo Rob Murray, Google assigned an employee to iProspect's Boston office, while a year ago another Googlista set up shop inside the agency's San Francisco office.
Now, says Murray, rather than "talk to 100 different people at Google," the latter's employees help solve problems and "spend more money on Google efficiently for our clients."
Last year, iProspect spent $340 million, or 70% of its $485 million digital advertising spend in the US, on ads through Google, up from $240 million, or 65% a year earlier. Display ad spending on Google grew twice as fast as search-ad spending during the period, Murray reports.
Elsewhere in the agency firmament, David Cohen, an evp at Interpublic's Universal McCann media-buying shop, opines that several years ago Google "did not understand how agencies worked and [was] impossible to deal with on payment terms, terms and conditions and other legal matters."
Now relations have markedly improved and his firm gets important previews of future Google offerings, among other things, though he added that the relationship is "still a work in progress."
In 2011 20% of UM's spending with Google involved display ads, double that of two years ago.