This just in: Microsoft announced at its annual financial analyst meeting today that it has extended its existing relationship with Facebook. Official MS release indicates "Microsoft will work with Facebook to bring its customers Live Search-powered web search and search ads by the end of the calendar year."
Just when we all thought the curtain had closed on the soap opera surrounding Yahoo!, the media company announced it officially ended talks with Microsoft and instead entered a partnership with Google – a match both firms hope has revenue upside of about $800 million.
*A great move for Google. Google – which already has about 60% of consumer searches and its own vast paid search and contextual network – now has access to and will make money off of its primary rival’s inventory.
Create a new online advertising platform, called Platform A, which will integrate the media and technologies across all of AOL's current ad networks including Advertising.com, TACODA, Third Screen Media, Lightningcast, and ADTECH
Relocate its corporate headquarters to New York City
I see this announcement as further fodder for my argument that online advertising is trenching for a comeback, and moving forward will be the backbone of every marketing campaign. Particular to AOL, I think this is interesting timing for a very aggressive move. Leadership in the online advertising space was AOL's to lose 5 years ago and that is exactly what they did. The decision to create an integrated marketing platform and locate themselves where the advertisers are is a great move, but is it too little too late? Why now for AOL? Why didn't they make a decision of this scale years ago before they fell into fourth place in the race?
The announcment that Yahoo is buying ad network Blue Lithium comes at a ponderous time for me since I'm just wrapping up the research for Forrester's forecast of Interactive Marketing Spending and (report is due Sept 28). Per that research, I'm finding that indeed interactive budgets are on their way up with marketers (still) most interested in search and (newly interested in) online video. Display ads continue to be a part of almost all online campaigns and yet no marketer has much to say about them. Marketers and vendors alike have commented that display ads as a medium have undersold themselves since the early 2000s. Basically display ads have capabilities that no marketer knows/cares about. Or that has not yet been fully exploited.
I'm right in the middle of researching Forrester's Interactive Marketing Forecast -- our big sizing report which forecasts spending in different interactive channels five years into the future. In addition to leveraging a quantitative study of marketers (which some of you helped with -- thanks!), I'm also conducting a series of interviews with media providers, vendors, agencies and interactive marketing experts to help me prioritize trends and build out an accurate market sizing.
Last week as part of my research I spoke to Jim Nail, ex-Forrester analyst and current CMO of TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony and Jeff Lanctot, VP of Media and Client Services for Avenue A/Razorfish. Both independently mentioned a key theme defining the future of interactive marketing which I've been noodling on since my conversations with them. I'm paraphrasing a bit, but the theme is that of immersive marketing -- that is the idea of creating marketing programs that:
Create a cohesive and all-encompassing experience across any channel where the customer is.
My take is that this is all much ado about nothing. Why?
*Google is an easy target. Google is so large, and has seen such rapid growth over the last 3 years, that we all (competitors, consumers, government officials, press, industry analysts) can't help but be a little suspicious of them. And maybe a little jealous of their wealth and presence.
Early this morning Microsoft announced it will buy online marketing company aQuantive -- the holding parent of interactive agency Avenue A/Razorfish, display and paid search ad mangement platform Atlas and inventory management system DrivePM. The $6 billion deal cash deal represents an 85% premium to aQuantive's closing price last night and will likely close during the first half of 2008.
I think there are two obvious calls to make based on this deal:
1. The acquisition certainly builds out Microsoft's access to the entire online advertising supply chain. Prior to the acquisition Microsoft had the execution channel -- sites where advertisers could buy ads. Now, they also have the upstream pieces of this chain: planning, strategy, creative. WPP is working toward a similar goal with its recent announcement to acquire 24/7 Real Media. But WPP had the planning, strategy, and creative pieces and bought 24/7 for access to the downstream channel.