The ambiguity of media, advertisers and agencies continues. On the heels of ad-agency holding company WPP’s announcement to acquire ad-network company 24/7, marketer and media play Microsoft just announced it will acquire ad-agency and -technology company aQuantive for $6 billion.Â These formerly independent functions increasingly are morphing into one.
In many ways, these moves make sense. From a media standpoint, acquiring agencies and technology can help gravitate the eroding eyeballs-for-sale business toward a marketing solutions business. Media companies also can use those agency relationships to steer dollars and adoption back toward themselves. On the flip side, big agencies can fight their steady, undesirable march to commodity status, if not obsolescence, by inserting themselves in the media inventory and consumer engagement equation. Then there are the advertisers, who are unsatisfied with both, or are simply opportunistic, and find themselves dabbling or jumping headfirst into the legacy domains of media and agency services. That’s why P&G has Tremor, and why Johnson & Johnson has Babycenter.com.
However, these fuzzy marriages present many conflicts to sort out. In big conglomerates, there usually is a pipe dream, if not downright pressure, to integrate services and categorically declare inside affiliates “preferred partners,” regardless of what’s good for the client being served. Similarly, a cadre of inside preferred partners can thwart the benefits of open-sourcing. Big arrangements also can be distracting and disruptive, and cause companies to lose sight of their core competencies and agility.
Beyond these concerns, I think these new mash-ups are less so about consolidation and more about the evolution to new media and advertising business models — and ultimately, relationships between marketers and consumers. Of course, rapid landscape changes and competitive pressures for near- and long-term dollars are massive motivations.