The Wait Is Over: Google/AdMob Approved by FTC

FTCIt's official.   The impossible will not happen and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has approved Google's purchase of  mobile ad network powerhouse, AdMob.

And, there will be no $700 million kill fee for AdMob and its investors.  But, it's fun to think about.

The FTC's statement (PDF) on the approval reveals the reason for the intensity of the review as the commission saw the acquisition as the merger of the two leaders in the space:

"The decision was a difficult one because the parties currently are the two leading mobile advertising networks, and the Commission was concerned about the loss of head-to-head competition between them."

What's interesting here is that the FTC presumably sees the mobile marketplace as that impactful when estimates indicate the mobile market will remain an also-ran to other forms of digital delivery such as search, video or display when it comes to ad spend for the foreseeable future.

According to the IABs estimates from its most recent revenue report (PDF): "Search revenues totaled $2.6 billion in the second quarter of 2009." In September 2009, eMarketer pointed to ONLY $1.5 billion in annual mobile advertising revenues by 2013. (see below)

Mobile Growth

In a few years, it may make sense to re-think the digital silos and nomenclatures as data-driven advertising overlaps between device types. Digital TV will be delivered on mobile devices. AdMob will serve ads into an app on a PC. It's all delivered via Internet Protocal (IP). Mobility is a feature of digital marketing. Display, text, video, etc. are the tactics. To the FTC, mobile seems like the fishing industry.

Over at the Official Google blog, the company is officially happy they can move on. Susan Wojcicki, VP of Product Management, wrote:

"We’re very excited about the possibilities in this field. As an immediate matter, we’re now moving to close this acquisition in coming weeks. We’ll then start work right away on bringing AdMob’s and Google’s teams and products together."

The final clue into the FTC thought process as to why it decided to approve is equally puzzling: Apple purchased Quattro to provide a significant competitor in the FTC's estimation.

From the FTC's statement:

"During the investigation, Apple acquired the third largest mobile ad network, Quattro Wireless, in December 2009 and then introduced its own mobile advertising network, iAd, as part of its iPhone applications package. The Commission has reason to believe that Apple quickly will become a strong mobile advertising network competitor."

So, if Apple hadn't bought Quattro Wireless, would this deal be approved by the FTC? Sound like it wouldn't have and AdMob would have enjoyed its alleged $700 million kill fee. Did Steve Jobs pull the trigger on Quattro too soon? Hindsight is 20-20 unless you're the FTC.

In addition to the FTC statement, you can also read its press release.


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