Google fired the first shot in the online advertising wars by buying Doubleclick in a US$3.1billion dollar frontal assault on the viewing habits and search data of consumers. Then Bang!Bang!Bang!Bang!, the rest of media (online and off) fought back.
First Shot Yahoo! bought the parts it did not already own of ad exchange network Right Media (think an eBay model for of online advertising - buyers/publishers and sellers/advertisers can trade clicks and pageviews in a open market) for $680 million.
Second Shot AOL buys ad serving AdTech and rolls in into its Advertising.com operation.
Third Shot Media and advertising giant WPP (trivia for the day - did you know that WPP stands for Wire & Plastic Products - nothing to do with media) bought SEM marketer, ad server and ad network provider 24/7 Real Media for $639.
Forth Shot Microsoft storms the beaches with a massive force of $6billion in cold hard cash to acquire aQuantive (Avenue A | Razorfish, Atlas and DRIVEpm).
UPDATE - Fifth & Sixth shots- Behavioural targeting gets serious with AOL buying Tacoda and Yahoo! buying BlueLithium.
Add all that to Google's deal and we have $10.5billion dollars in consolidation activity in an instant. However as Valleywag says all of these follow up deals were really defensive plays - Google is still the true superpower in this arms race. Valleywag also have a nice little diagram for you to put into a power-point to explain all this to your boss.
What does this mean for travel?
Good things for travel - it should add up to better targeting technologies. As SEM becomes more and more expensive travel providers need more and more targeted approaches to advertising. As the networks, search companies, ad servers and publishers learn more and more about consumers and find more and more efficient ways to target, then travel providers should be able to bring more of the web into play and improve marketing ROI.
Bad thing for travel - Google is already too strong. A travel provider that wants to compete simply has to give Google money. The stronger it gets the more compelled you are to give Google money. Of course there are alternatives (focus purely on SEO through amazing content or throw your money at the travel channel of media sites and hope something sticks) but paid search on Google is the main game. The more that Google, AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo! and now WPP can set themselves up as the gatekeepers for access to media then the greater the risks that their prices will rise.
But I think the Good outweighs the Bad. Google is the lead, but it always was and we are all developing strategies for managing this. Also, I don't think this truly makes Google, AOL, etc gatekeepers but if it does there are enough of them to maintain a competitive market and (as Paidcontent also discusses) there are other big players (ie ValueClick) and upstarts (Tacoda, BlueLithium, Eyeblaster, Adbrite, AdECN, Turn) to help keep the big guys honest.
Would love to hear the thoughts and comments from you other marketers out there (Mike Potts?) about this string of deals, consolidation in online advertising and the consequences for online travel.
UPDATE - Mike Potts of e-interactive has sent through some comments in the new part 2 of this article here.
UPDATE 2 - Sept 04 now it is more than $11billion to own the world with AOL buying behavioural targeting firm Tacoda for $275mm and Yahoo! taking on BlueLithium for a few dollars more ($300mm)