aQuantive Buys Paid Search Manager Go Toast

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Online ad technology company aQuantive said yesterday that it acquired search management company Go Toast in a bid to tap the lucrative search business.


Seattle-based aQuantive adds Go Toast to its ad-serving unit, Atlas DMT, to provide its clientele of agencies and large advertisers with tools to manage keyword campaigns alongside their regular Internet ad initiatives.


"An overwhelming majority of our customers said search was the No. 1 or No. 2 initiative for them, and they needed a set of tools to help them manage this category," said Karl Siebrecht, vice president of strategy and product management at Atlas DMT.


Go Toast's software lets businesses manage bidding on paid search campaigns with the likes of Google and Yahoo's Overture Services while also providing conversion tracking and Web analytics.


Atlas is testing an integrated offering with a half-dozen clients in which Go Toast will feed keyword campaign data into Atlas DMT's reporting platform. The company said it would have an update on its integration plans during its fourth-quarter earnings call in January.


"A major reason to get those functions in one place is to coordinate the data tracking," Siebrecht said.


Atlas DMT provides ad serving, planning and buying for more than 100 clients including agencies like Carat Interactive and Euro RSCG. Go Toast's paid search software has a larger number of clients, most of which are small businesses.


"Historically, we have served very different clients," said Dave Carlson, Go Toast's chief executive. "In the last six months, we've had more agencies using [our] service."


While search began as an advertising medium for small and midsize businesses, its success has led to a stampede by traditional advertisers. The U.S. search marketing industry is expected to generate $2.3 billion in 2003, according to U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray. The investment bank expects that to rise to $5.7 billion by 2008.


Many advertisers now manage hundreds of keywords with various search providers. The complexity of paid search has created scores of search marketing companies, including technology providers like Go Toast and Did-it.com.


The move into search management further differentiates Atlas DMT from its much larger rival, DoubleClick. On Dec. 12, DoubleClick CEO Kevin Ryan told an investment conference that search and rich media are the two areas driving online advertising but that DoubleClick would focus on its Motif rich media product.


"We'll be present in the paid listings business, but not as significant," he said. "There's not as much of an opening for us there."


Jupiter Research analyst Nate Elliott said combining bid management and ad serving is a wise move, as big-budget advertisers continue to shift money into search marketing.


"This is by far the quickest-growing form of online advertising," he said. "The ad servers haven't found a way to play in this space effectively."


Go Toast will operate as a business unit of Atlas DMT, remaining based in Denver and retaining its name. Carlson, who will stay as head of the unit, said Go Toast would continue to serve the smaller advertisers that make up the lion's share of its customer base.


Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but aQuantive said Go Toast would produce $3 million to $4 million in revenue this year and is profitable.


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