Will GoogleClick Give Away DART?

It's been about a week since I floated my theory about Google turning DFA and DFP into two free products, and so far, I've not had any significant challenges to the theory, or even people telling me "Nah, it'll never happen..." After my column yesterday in iMedia, I even received some private e-mail from venture capitalists and industry analysts.  Most of it amounted to "yeah, that makes sense," although a few e-mails asked unrelated questions about what I thought of some of the other assets coming together in the Google-DoubleClick and the Microsoft-aQuantive deals.

I'm still trying to figure out what the Microsoft-aQuantive deal was, other than a blocking move by Microsoft.  The three primary divisions of aQuantive represent things that Microsoft will have trouble leveraging.  What does it want with an ad agency (AvenueA - Razorfish)?  Most people I talked to were surprised to see Microsoft indicate they wouldn't divest themselves of this potential liability.  After all, its new corporate ownership is going to raise many questions for AvenueA among its clients.  What does it want with DrivePM?  Drive is a terrific network that generates success for quite a few of our clients, but Microsoft has trouble figuring out how to sell advertising effectively, and the last thing I would want to see is DrivePM absorbed into MSN's advertising sales division.  While it's true Microsoft could turn DrivePM into the next Advertising.com, I think it would take them longer than they might envision.  What do they want with Atlas?  Unlike DoubleClick, Atlas doesn't have a robust publisher-side product.  (Okay, so they bought Accipiter a while ago.  Notice I said "robust.")  For twice the price, Microsoft gets half the ad serving products.  And it could be argued they got the wrong half.

Speaking of ad serving products, I told one of the money guys who e-mailed me earlier that I thought the value of "advertiser relationships" has been overblown in the media.  The relationships that DoubleClick and Atlas have with advertisers and agencies are technology- and research-driven relationships where little or no influence over advertiser media selection exists.  Meanwhile, the press has been going ga-ga over so-called "advertiser relationships" that will somehow give Google and Microsoft advantages over others in upselling their ad products, as if these relationships somehow kick down doors for MSN and Google.  It's more subtle than that, and my money's on Google to figure out how to leverage technology to make it easier to buy their products through DFA's interfaces.  I think it's almost a given that they'll revamp things to make it easier to buy AdWords, ads on the Google Content Network, radio, print, television and other ad products, right through DFA.

There is the question of what will happen to DCLK and MSFT search management products.  It's a big question mark for me.  We've used Atlas Search in the past and have been somewhat underwhelmed by its clunkiness.  DART Search seems more elegant, but I'm doubting that these two products will continue to exist in their present form much longer.  My guess is that if Google does anything at all, it will improve DART Search's integration with Google Search.  Would Microsoft do the same thing for Atlas Search integration with MSN?  If they do, it certainly has less impact than DART Search/Google.

What I think this all comes down to is that two free Google Ad Management products (one for advertisers, one for publishers) would have such strategic impact on our business that it would be silly of Google to NOT release them.  They have more offerings to integrate into the platform, they can gain more revenue and more clients, and they can make it harder for Microsoft to monetize aQuantive than Microsoft can make it tough for them to monetize DoubleClick.  It almost seems like a no-brainer when you look at it that way.