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Giant Google/DoubleClick Buddies Up to Advertisers

With Approval of $3.1 Billion Deal Imminent, Search Giant Previews Its Plans

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Consumer groups and rivals have been howling over Google's $3.1 billion acquisition of DoubleClick, arguing it will tighten competition and raise ad prices. But with the deal, expected to pass Federal Trade Commission muster this week, the search king aims to be a friend to marketers, according to Tim Armstrong, who outlined for Ad Age some of the company's plans.

"Today, display online looks a lot like traditional ads offline," said Mr. Armstrong, Google's president-advertising and commerce, North America. "When people do big launches, they do a couple types of creative and a few products. But by having Google and DoubleClick work together, we can help a company use all their products and all their creative."

DoubleClick's display data will be integrated with its own search data into a tool to monitor, measure and optimize advertising across multiple media -- a dashboard, in online parlance.

Not for targeting
That does not mean Google plans to marry search data with the display data DoubleClick collects for targeting purposes. It does not have plans, for example, to target a display ad for an SUV to a person because it knows he previously searched for it, Mr. Armstrong said.

Eventually a dashboard may include offline media, but "the first step of the dashboard is search and display being able to be measured together," he said.

Building a dashboard to analyze the effectiveness of and optimize ad campaigns is not Google's quest alone. Holding companies, private start-ups and online-sales behemoths such as Microsoft also have been working to create such sophisticated management systems.

Google believes the acquisition will help marketers take advantage of the Long Tail of products -- much like search has. Google's oft-relayed example of this is the tech marketer that was able to advertise only two or three of its products at a time, thanks to the human scale and creative and cost constraints of more-traditional media. Today, thanks to search, that tech company is running ads for thousands of its products.

Helping hand
When asked whether DoubleClick could have made this possible on its own, without the investment from Google, Mr. Armstrong said DoubleClick was working on these types of innovations, but it's in Google's system that advertisers have campaigns loaded to run this way.

There's still a question of what kinds of regulations the Federal Trade Commission will place on the deal. The European Commission, the European Union's antitrust regulator in Brussels, has extended its review of the deal, which could drag the process out until April 2, almost a full year after Google announced it would acquire DoubleClick for $3.1 billion.

Critics of the deal, from Microsoft to privacy advocates, are lobbying last-minute for restrictions. Some argue that combining the largest display-ad server and the largest search player will monopolize the pipeline for internet advertising and mean higher prices for advertisers and lower advertising revenue for web publishers. They suggest those issues will trickle down to consumers in the form of higher prices for goods and services and lower-quality online content due to lower revenue for web publishers. Several consumer-interest groups suggest the merger will lead to weakened privacy practices because of a lack of any competitive threat to Google. As recently as three weeks ago, two senior U.S. senators urged scrutiny of the deal.

Google counterattacks by pointing to the recent mergers-and-acquisitions activity as proof of a competitive marketplace. Less than a month after Google announced the intent to buy DoubleClick, Microsoft bought DoubleClick's smaller competitor, Atlas, through its $6 billion acquisition of aQuantive.

Skipping Dart altogether
And the fact that such a major seller of media would be the proprietor of ad-effectiveness data still has some agencies and marketers wary. "Many marketers are quite uncomfortable with the situation and might look harder for alternative media sources or move away from DoubleClick Dart as their ad-serving platform," said Kevin Lee, chairman of Didit, a search-marketing firm, and author of "The Eyes Have It." (Dart is DoubleClick's system for targeting and measuring advertising. There are two versions, one for publishers and one for agencies and advertisers. The acronym stands for Dynamic Advertising Reporting Targeting.)

"The irony is that co-mingling the advertising and marketing data might actually result in better targeted advertising, but neither the marketer nor many consumers are willing to give any one organization that much power without a proactive opt-in," Mr. Lee said.

"Approve [the merger] with the proper caveats," said an executive close to Microsoft. "Force the divestiture of those areas that are troublesome, like Dart for publishers."

Google also is positioning the DoubleClick merger as a way to bring more relevancy to online advertising and suggests that for consumers, the end benefit is a better online experience.

Mr. Armstrong suggested looking at the early part of the decade. "One reason internet use started to take off again was a better user experience online thanks to things like pop-up blocking and ad relevancy," he said. "That led to much better consumer experience with advertising, and we see more opportunities to help that in the future."
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