Regulators Must Stop Microsoft/aQuantive as well as GoogleClick

Today’s announcement that Microsoft is swallowing the immense aQuantive digital marketing apparatus is no surprise. Having lost the leading third-party online display giant Doubleclick to its archrival Google, Microsoft is desperate to remain relevant in online marketing. The $6b acquisition of aQuantive provides Microsoft and its adCenter platform with the digital marketing clout of Atlas. Atlas products include services designed to super-charge brand-marketing friendly ads utilizing rich media, broadband video, search, etc.

The deal is more proof that the FTC better wake-up and do something about the consolidation of the online advertising market. That agency can’t address the hypocrisy though of Microsoft lobbyists. They have beseeched advocates, including this blogger, to stop the Google-Doubleclick merger. All along we knew that Microsoft was desperately seeking a deal, including with Yahoo!
We will discuss the deal later in this column. But it underscores what we’ve been saying, including in our November 2006 complaint to the FTC. There’s major and troubling consolidation occurring in the online ad market. If we want to see competition and content diversity thrive online, regulators need to act. Perhaps our friends in Europe at least will. They certainly need to examine the landscape over the last few weeks. Yahoo! acquires the remaining interest of Right Media for $680m; Time Warner’s AOL buys German-based adTech and Third Screen Media; and ad giant WPP snatches up 24/7 Real Media online ad firm for $649m. Something, we suggest, is going on. Is the FTC listening?

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