What's the value chain in recent acquisitions?

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Any examination of the two largest of the recent high-profile acquisitions in our industry will reveal that the acquiring company sees compelling ways to grow their business through proprietary technology, including e-mail. Although some observers claim that Google's acquisition of DoubleClick is an exception to this, whenever there is an opportunity to buy a company with that kind of leadership position in a market you want to penetrate, it only makes sense.

Those of us who have been in this business for years might boast that - before the Web came along - advertising was an activity that suffered at least a bit from cognitive dissonance. That is - it professed an ability to link sellers with buyers, although it didn't actually connect them until digital media and its interactivity came along.

The two acquiring companies referenced above arguably have some of the most regular and intimate contacts with consumers online. Within Microsoft's huge e-mail platforms, brands interact with users and vice-versa thousands of times every day. And we all know how precise the contact has become between consumers who search on Google and the sellers who reside in their query results.

The companies that are being snapped up - DoubleClick, aQuantive and others - have built online advertising solutions that have achieved a certain amount of this kind of effect. But, in all cases, it seems that the acquiring companies - Google and Microsoft - are actually buying entities that put more distance between buyers and sellers than what they already own.

So what are the potential benefits of these acquisitions? Are the acquiring companies buying assets that move them away from this intimate contact and bring them more toward the development of a truly open advertising network online? Actually, what they are doing is acquiring technology and relationships that will enable them to take that connectivity with the consumer, and bring many more marketing dollars to it. By combining that connectivity with an exchange, or even any kind of open advertising network, most segments of our industry should grow - and at least one segment could really take off.

It's e-mail, of course

Search comprises as much as 65 percent of all new money entering interactive media over the past few years, but it's the e-mail segment that has been doubling, according to most figures. While performance marketers point to the ability to make changes on the fly in their SEM (search engine marketing) budgets, 60 percent to 70 percent of all clicks still come from organic listings, and the ROI (return on investment) of even the best SEM campaigns still can't touch the ROI of well executed e-mail campaigns.

Which segment of interactive provides the contact with a consumer that makes our industry different, while also providing the ability for buyers and sellers to adjust their budgets in real time to drive greater efficiency? It's e-mail, of course. Today, well-executed, fully compliant e-mail is less campaign-based and less push than you may know - just one reason why it's growing so quickly. Watch closely in the next 18 months as e-mail begins to better leverage the new technologies and grab even more budgets from marketers online.

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