Home Online Advertising The Shrinking, Audience Buying Ecosystem

The Shrinking, Audience Buying Ecosystem


The Shrinking EcosystemHave you noticed? The ad tech, audience buying ecosystem is shrinking. For all the talk about how complicated the ecosystem is and how many companies there still there are, it’s smaller than it was a year or two ago if you look at the number of VC-backed startups in the ad tech space.

I did a quick count of companies that have been bought between 2008 and today and came up with 57 mergers and acquisitions relevant to digital audience buying. And, I’m sure I missed a few.

If you consider the audience buying space as typified by LUMA Partners’ display chart, it’s not just about PC browser-based display – it’s about mobile, video and social channels – even the search channel as search retargeting has emerged as yet another tactic for the digital media, audience buying specialist. I won’t throw addressable TV in their quite yet, but it’s coming (shameless plug!). And hey, you could add radio and digital-out-of-home for that matter to audience buying. But it’s still early with those two, too.

In The Beginning…

I’d suggest the audience buying “Garden of Eden” was in 2007 when Google bought DoubleClick, Yahoo! bought Right Media and Microsoft bought Avenue A/Aquantive and AdECN. Those are the acquisitions that lit the audience buying fires to varying degrees (yes I know retargeting goes back much further.) and aggregated inventory pools for targeting in an exchange-like system.

Here’s my rough list of the ad tech “shrinkage” since late 2008 – around the same time AdExchanger.com began:


UPDATED 12/7/11

Using AdExchanger.com’s admittedly loose, counting methods, that’s 20 acquisitions in 2010 and 33 acquisitions and mergers already in 2011. More evidence of “shrinkage” momentum, potentially. We’ll see what the fall brings.

Some logos are bigger than other logos


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When looking at Terence Kawaja’s LUMA Partners’ chart, I’d make a couple of adjustments when thinking about complexity. (By the way, I’m really glad I don’t have to manage that chart. Terence Kawaja, enjoy!)

First, you can you remove quite a few logos with recent consolidation and as LUMA’s dotted red line shows.

Next, some logos represent marketing stacks – or growing ecosystems unto themselves, if you will. Actually, the ad network/DSP world has many of these types of companies with varying degrees of revenue and capabilities. Consequently, some logos are much bigger than other logos.

Also, some point solutions remain extremely valuable. And some, not so much, as they edge toward oblivion. Again, some logos are bigger than others.

I’ve never bought off on the idea that there are too many companies taking too many pieces of the audience buying pie, etc. This is about re-thinking media. And a lot of people have a lot of good ideas.

But, if it makes you feel better, the ecosystem is shrinking while the number of users (advertisers, agencies, publishers – and still more trading desks/ad networks/DSPs) of the ecosystem continues to increase.

By John Ebbert

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