A game of search engine dodge ball

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There comes a time when sides must be picked. Fifth-grade dodge ball games immediately come to mind as perhaps the most frightful example. While team captains take turns picking and choosing players from the ranks, potential players must also mentally adjust their opinions of the captains. No matter how horribly Tommy the Terror tortured you in the fourth grade, at some point you probably decided that being part of his team would serve a better fate than being selected by Battle Axe Brenda. After all, if you are ever on the receiving end of a ball being whipped across a court at high speeds, it might as well not be from the guy who has had a mustache since he was nine.

Other factors weighing in on this mental assessment include the strength of players selected before you as well as the collective strength of the newly formed team. Maybe your best friend was picked by Brenda, but being your best friend, you can rightfully say that between his asthmatic tendencies and trick knee, it's not likely that he will take a hit for you. And so old friendships are set aside and new alliances are formed as you face a brand new game run by two eleven year bullies.

While these emotions most likely live in a place deep within your childhood memories, be prepared to dust off your meanest face, as I do believe we are in the midst of a massive dodge ball selection process.

This time around the game features archrivals Microsoft and Google. It is common knowledge that both team captains vied for DoubleClick, who went from being the fat kid to slimming down over a few summers to returning to the court with brand new biceps. Google quickly named DoubleClick to its team, leaving Microsoft no other choice than to pick aQuantive, especially after 24/7 Real Media went to play on the swings with agency holding company WPP.

One player from DoubleClick recently told me that he was thrilled to be selected by Google, pointing out that the advertising world is moving toward an exchange model and that Google would be the place to be. Shortly thereafter, I found myself in a conversation with a colleague who openly chastised Google for a variety of actions. I found this quite odd, considering that he is in a position where he must deal with all of the search engines on equal footing. I should have seen the writing on the wall. Microsoft acquired his firm, aQuantive, a week later.

If grade school games are any indicator of human behavior (and I will argue that they are), everyone on the playground must now size up the teams and make a decision. Even if you are the kid playing with frogs behind the school, someone you know is about to take a nasty shot in the head, and you are either going to have to come to his defense or shun him as you join the winning team in its glory.

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