Why Madison Avenue Should Be Wary of the Facebook-Atlas Combo

Beware the Ad Servers That Are Also Media Sellers

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With Facebook acquiring Atlas, there is now $344 billion in market cap associated with companies that own and operate media properties as well as ad serving systems.

Google ($274 billion market cap) owns DoubleClick, AOL ($2.86 billion) owns AdTech, ValueClick ($2.05 billion) owns MOJO and retained the Mediaplex ad-server, and now Facebook ($65.4B) owns Atlas.

When we think about ad servers for Madison Avenue, most of us think of Google's DART and Atlas. Both of these two ad serving solutions are now owned by larger-than-life media platforms. Mediamind, the challenger of ad serving solutions is making inroads across Madison Avenue and they at least say they're now No.2 to DART, a claim I can believe.

Having heard the speculation turned news about Facebook acquiring Atlas and reading Facebook product director Gokul Rajaram's explanation, I still do not understand why Facebook did this acquisition unless it thinks it can convince Madison Avenue to use them as their 3rd-party ad serving tool of record.

And if it does, here is my question to Madison Avenue: Wouldn't you want an impartial 3rd party to be your ad serving tool? Why would you rely on a media property that is going to make more money off media than ad serving to deliver you your attribution models?

And with this, I'm not saying Google is any better. It's a big reason why the majority of our clients are not on the DART ad server.

In the finance world, there are significant rules around proprietary trading (prop desk) and analyst/research work. The two basically do not intermingle and in the recent laws, the two might have to split. This is FINRA rule 5280:.

(a) No member shall establish, increase, decrease or liquidate an inventory position in a security or a derivative of such security based on non-public advance knowledge of the content or timing of a research report in that security.

(b) A member must establish, maintain and enforce policies and procedures reasonably designed to restrict or limit the information flow between research department personnel, or other persons with knowledge of the content or timing of a research report, and trading department personnel, so as to prevent trading department personnel from utilizing non-public advance knowledge of the issuance or content of a research report for the benefit of the member or any other person.

I understand that advertising is not finance, but wouldn't we take clues from a more robust industry?

If you are a marketer or agency and put all your media plan data in a company that is selling you millions of dollars of advertising media, don't you think that the data will be used against you?

Here is an example, purely for illustrative purposes:

  • Property A – $6/cpm; $3/cpa
  • Property B – $8/cpm; $3.50/cpa
  • Property C – $7.75/cpm; $3.40/cpa

Imagine the three properties above have their data in an ad server controlled by Google, AOL, ValueClick, and now, Facebook.

When you go to purchase media from any of these four properties, they can see what you are currently paying and what the actual performance is.

This gives these media platforms a significant leg up on pricing and performance as they know where they need to maintain or beat.

Is it just me that's skeptical?

On a slightly unrelated note, I do not run M&A for Facebook but I would have suspected they would have built their own ad server and then maybe acquired an attribution company such as Adometry, C3 or VisualIQ (or the many others in that space).

Darren Herman Darren Herman is the Chief Digital Media Officer of The Media Kitchen and President of kbs+ Ventures, both part of New York based kirshenbaum bond senecal & partners. He blogs at http://www.darrenherman.com and tweets at @dherman76.
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