Monday, September 24, 2007

A Consolidation MIXX-Up

There were fireworks on stage during the second panel of the day at the IAB's MIXX Conference. For the first time ever, we brought on stage the leaders of four of the largest, recently announced acquisitions: David Moore, chairman and CEO of 24/7 Realmedia (acquired by the WPP Group); Karl Siebracht, president of Atlas (whose parent company, aQuantive, was bought by Microsoft); Mike Walrath, founder and CEO of Right Media (acquired by Yahoo); and -- pictured here -- David Rosenblatt, CEO of Doubleclick (being acquired by Google). As moderator Saul Hansell, the New York Times technology writer and blogger, noted, "That's $10 billion of market value in one place."

What does $10 billion of market value do in a conference room? Promote, attack and defend. The four leaders disagreed on whether Google's acquisition of Doubleclick is a good thing; whether automated advertising exchanges will help or hinder marketers; and whether media companies acquiring ad networks are too self-interested for their own good.

But they agreed on one thing: That consolidation -- certainly their own consolidation -- is good for everyone.

"I see more and better innovation coming faster," Mr. Rosenblatt said. To understand all these deals, the word is liquidity. If you ask advertisers about their bigger challenges in moving dollars from offline to online, its the absence of standards; it's ability to target; and it's the need for lower prices across a wider range of media products."

With consolidation, he argued, "You're ending up with four or five pools of inventory or liquidity, and that liquidity allows these problems to be solved. Like the stock exchange. That’s the problem all these companies are pointed out."

Although his co-panelists agreed, none was willing to step forward when Mr. Hansell asked how many supported Google's purchase of Doubleclick. Ever the Timesman, the moderator became more direct in his questioning. He turned to Mr. Siebrecht and asked, "The bad thing we should all be afraid of is...?"

"The quick way to answer," the Atlas president replied, "is there are implications to market concentration in any market... if one player gets too much control and has the ability to extract rents."

Mr. Rosenblatt looked at the crowd. "There's no irony in this at all."

But there was: His own.

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