Microsoft said the deal would give it an Internet-wide ad platform beyond its current capability of serving up ads on its own portal, MSN.
Ten-year-old aQuantive is the digital marketing parent of Atlas, an ad serving technology platform, and Avenue A|Razorfish, an interactive ad agency.
Microsoft said the acquisition would give it depth in building and supporting additional advertising solutions and environments, such as cross media planning, video-on-demand and IPTV.
The deal comes at a time when a flurry of major acquisitions have been made by top Internet players, signaling an arms race of sorts to dominate the lucrative Internet advertising market.
Advertising holding company WPP Group on Thursday announced an agreement to buy 24/7 Real Media, while AOL announced Wednesday that it has acquired a controlling interest in Adtech AG, a Frankfurt, Germany-based ad serving company. On Tuesday, AOL announced its acquisition of mobile ad network Third Screen Media.
Last month, Google announced it will acquire DoubleClick, and Yahoo bought Right Media, signaling both companies’ interest in the ad serving market.
Commenting on the Microsoft deal, Forrester Research analyst Shar Van Boskirk wrote in her marketing blog Friday morning: “The shift to online marketing has at last begun. We in the industry have been talking about the shift away from traditional media into online for the last 10 years. But the medium took time to establish its credibility. I think the intensity and price tags of these acquisitions indicate that some very big media and agency firms are staking their bets on online. They’ve watched the success of Google with search and want to be in front of the next huge shift of budget into online advertising.”
The deal is expected to be completed in the second half of this year.