Industry Reaction: Google Buys Invite Media - One Year Later

Invite Media and GooglePaidContent's David Kaplan has a look at the one-year anniversary of Google's acquisition of Invite Media with its co-founder Zach Weinberg who tells Kaplan that Invite has "largely been 'left alone' in terms of conducting its business." Read it. At yesterday's Conversational Media Summit, Google exec Neal Mohan said, "Invite Media has been one of the fastest growing acquisitions that Google has ever made." Read it.

AdExchanger.com asked the following question:

"What has been the impact of the Invite Media acquisition by Google a year ago? Any surprises?"

A selection of responses from industry execs is below:

Curt Viebranz, CEO, Ad Summos

"No real surprises here. I think it was a great pickup for Google at a very reasonable price. The combination has clearly driven significant growth in RTB over the past year. What is surprising is how little Google has done over the past year to unify its disparate ad offerings. Look for a lot more to happen there in the next twelve months. Everyone who is staking a claim to part of the value chain will be trying to figure out Google’s moves. The DSP marketplace is still incredibly crowded; one has to expect a shakeout there in the next twelve months. The pace of change in this ecosystem leads me to say that Google’s acquisition of Invite will look far less significant a year from now than it did a year ago."

Rich Astley, MEC, Managing Partner, Digital Trading

"The biggest surprise to me is the fact a lot of people assumed the Invite acquisition would be the start of an industry wide spending spree on DSP technologies. Well, a year later and that just hasn't happened. I think the reason for that is twofold: 1) The market has a lot more head-room for growth and consequently higher valuations in the long run and 2) I think its those technology platforms that can prove data driven media buying is a truly cross platform opportunity will prevail, and that’s still some time away yet.

What I think Google’s acquisition of Invite Media did ignite, was the start of the platform strategy. As the shift from relationship based sales to automated trading becomes a reality, the operating language for the marketplace has becomes strategically significant on the buy and sell side alike."

Joe Zawadzki, CEO, MediaMath

"The acquisition validated the demand-side platform as a key integration layer for the rest of the digital marketing stack that Google has been promoting of late: Invite + DART + AdEx + display/video/mobile supply, etc. That's obviously good overall, as the perceived complexity of the digital marketing landscape with all of those logos has threatened to overwhelm.

The key decision now has become which DSP marketing hub does one choose? It is no surprise that the Invite hub is working as an entry point for many, as google analytics is the standard entry-level product for many.

By the same token then, it's no surprise that more sophisticated buyers who are interested primarily in branding metrics and less in CTR in the long tail are looking to a more sophisticated, more modular and independent hub to build on for the long-term."

Bill Wise, CEO, MediaBank

"They've become more evil."

Jed Nahum, Global Channel Director, Microsoft Advertising Exchange

  • "The low price of the acquisition dimmed hopes of profitable exits for other DSPs and sent them scrambling into adjacent spaces (DMP, DCO) to create value for investors."
  • "The low fees that Invite is charging are also creating bottom line pressure for those same DSPs. The agencies never fled Invite like some in our industry imagined. Instead, they’ve used Invite as a hammer to keep prices down and commoditize the competitors."
  • "The pending integration of DFA and Invite is making competitors in two segments (DSPs and Ad Servers) very nervous. And, as the Google rewrite of the Invite code looms, what’s next? For example: will they integrate Teracent and AdMob functionality with Invite? Will they create a multi-channel buying engine? And, with broader scope, what will the applicability of the overall system they are building be to the offline brand marketing dollars we all are chasing?"

Megan Pagliuca, Vice President of Display Media, Merkle

"The purchase and the ongoing integration of the Invite & Doubleclick technology stack is a significant milestone in display’s evolution. In integrating the ad server with dominant market share and a DSP, marketers will have the ability to manage frequency and audience segmentation across guaranteed and non-guaranteed buys. The result will get marketers closer to dynamic allocation of spend to the right audiences & contexts, cost savings & a better user experience by preventing the inundation of excess frequencies and therefore display will deliver higher marketer ROI.

While DSPs like Mediamath & Turn have made leaps forward by enabling the capabilities to manage all buys through their platforms, only a few first movers will go through the change management required of people and processes that have been built around Doubleclick’s legacy functionality.

The next milestone in the evolution of display needs to be in measurement, only then will we get to the same spend levels as offline channels."

Mike Shehan, CEO, SpotXchange

"Despite initial protests that the Invite acquisition by Google would bring unbalanced favor to Google's other display-centric products (Doubleclick's Ad Exchange and its DFA serving platform), the feedback we've heard in the market has been largely positive. By all accounts, Google has left Invite alone, allowing it to operate outside of its massive ecosystem and function as a standalone DSP. The human resources that Google has invested in Invite would seem to indicate that the health of the exchange segment will continue to be strengthened - as long as Google keeps the playing field level on the supply side."

Martin Kelly, Co-Founder, Infectious Media

"The biggest thing that has struck us to date about the Invite purchase is really the signal that it sent out about the intentions of Google to own display from end to end. It’s breathtaking really that Google has now overtaken Yahoo in display in such a short space of time.

We do however believe that we’re still in ‘wait and see’ mode to understand the full implications of this deal. The Invite platform we see today is still largely the same technology that Google bought 12 months ago although there’s no doubt they’ve taken a much increased market share in the DSP space as a result of their new owner. In another twelve months it will be a totally different story with Invite retired, rebuilt as DFX, and representing the transactional adserver within the Doubleclick portfolio. That's a lot of data to have access to.

That’s when the game really will be afoot."

Eric Wheeler, CEO, 33Across

"Born from four smart co-founders, Invite media married their theories and code with some of the most seasoned minds in the online ad targeting and exchange business. The result: a giant leap forward in the exchange sector. Rather than entering the game with a better exchange, they thought why not enter above the fray and create something that can help the money flow more abundantly from the exchanges’ direct customers – agencies and clients. Good idea? Yeah. A year later, their theories, code and company have survived [and thrived] within an industry behemoth. The strong hand of Google behind the Invite Media brand helped them evolve into a driving force in the adoption of DSPs and exchange buying on a wholesale basis. Invite’s success in getting [understandably cautious] clients and agencies to invest in, and adopt their technology platform is no less than impressive."

Mike Baker, CEO, DataXu

"'Goo-Vite' has had little impact on the DSP market, at least as far as our business is concerned. A year ago, Invite had already sort of commoditized the low-end 'audience buying' part of the DSP market. Their offering remains pretty much the same today. Meanwhile, the depth and range of functionality of leading DSPs has grown considerably in the last year. For example, DataXu has launched mobile, video and brand optimization capabilities, while also creating enterprise-class workflow (UI / UX) for agency customers. Having lived through acquisition by a big company myself, I can appreciate the how hard it is to keep innovating and nurturing a small product among a portfolio of giants like search, GDN and AdX, not to mention Google's overarching challenge of catching up in social."

Andrew Pancer, COO, Media6Degrees

"At Media6Degrees, the changes we have seen go beyond just Google/Invite. DSPs appear to be taking on more workflow management and reporting solutions for their clients while focusing less on being the single audience targeting solution for them. One year ago, my company was not working with any agency trading desks (ATDs) or DSPs. These companies only wanted to buy our data, not our solution. Now we provide our full targeting solution to them and they roll us up into their platform for reporting and analytic purposes.

We attribute this shift to several factors. First, getting performance from commodity data is incredibly hard. Companies developing their own proprietary data sets and technology typically outperform general targeting. This can be a huge boost for campaign performance. Second, the “myth” of duplication is finally being debunked. Limiting specific exchanges to specific vendors in an attempt to avoid duplication is a losing strategy. It negatively impacts campaign performance and scale. Duplication is typically a non-factor when vendors are left to their own devices, as different vendors use different data sets, algorithms and bidding strategies.

When Google acquired Invite, they sent a clear message to the market that they intend to simplify the display buying process. Competitors have taken notice and they are shifting strategies to help simplify the ecosystem in a manner that is inclusive of the best targeting strategies, rather than create new silos of media buying."

See the reactions from a year ago.

By John Ebbert

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