- Google buys DoubleClick for $3.1 billion.
- Yahoo buys Right Media for $725 million.
- WPP buys 24/7 Media for $650 million.
- Silverlake Partners buys Acxiom (which owns the old Digital Impact) for $3 billion.
- The Blackstone Group buys Alliance Data Systems (which owns the old Bigfoot and Dartmail) for $7 billion.
- Microsoft buys aQuantive (which owns Avenue A/Razorfish and the Atlas ad network) for $6 billion.
Tens of billions of dollars change hands in a matter of weeks. The laggards become leaders. Public companies become private companies. The entire online marketing industry gets turned on its head. And who knows what will happen next week.
What does all this mean?
Each deal has its own implications, but there is one thing we can say for sure--things are going to be very chaotic for a while.
Looking first at Acxiom and Alliance Data Systems, private equity firms rarely take over a company because they are impressed with how it's run. If they like a company the way it is, it's a lot easier to buy some stock on the public market and ride it up. Expect big changes, strategy shifts and some divestitures from the newly private companies. (Just look at what happened to DoubleClick when it was purchased by a private equity firm.)
For Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, WPP, bigger is better. Big advertisers want to buy in big chunks. The more ad inventory and ad channels (ad banners, search, mobile, etc.), the easier it is to do business. Microsoft and Google both now have a lot more to sell. Sales forces will be cross-trained, rate cards will be expanded, reporting back-ends will be integrated and lots of newly wealthy people will be buying boats, cars, lake houses and otherwise enjoying early retirements.
I expect to see a huge surge in talented people hitting the market as all these deals seek to consolidate personnel and improve productivity. Customers will see a lot of chaos, but advertisers and marketers, particularly very large ones, will see a new suite of offerings that should make their lives easier. And lastly, I expect these large, multi-divisional companies will be broken up to some degree. Does Microsoft really want to be in the interactive agency space with Avenue A? Does Blackstone really want to be in the email tools business with DartMail? Does Google really want search engine agency Performics?
No doubt, interesting times ahead for all of us.
P.S. Back in my old venture capital days, I had the privilege of being on the team that funded DoubleClick in the late 1990s. Ad networks were hot back then. Then they were not. And now, by golly, they are hot again. You've got to love it.