It’s been one year since Google (NSDQ: GOOG) acquired demand-side platform Invite Media for about $70 million and the benefits appear to have accrued for both sides. For Invite, the Philadelphia-based unit has largely been “left alone” in terms of conducting its business, co-founder Zach Weinberg tells paidContent. At the same time, the search giant has lavished resources on Invite that has expanded its services across the globe and doubled its workforce. For Google, Invite has served as an important bridge to the major advertising agencies who once tolerated Google as a “frenemy.”
The purchase couldn’t have been done at a better time for Google. In June 2010, the display ad market was surging and major agencies had fully established their respective trading desks — IPG’s Cadreon, Publicis’ VivaKi Nerve Center, WPP’s Media Innovation Group and Omnicom Media Group’s Trading Desk — and were looking at the nascent DSP business to make better use of their respective functions.
DSPs such as Turn, MediaMath, [X+1], started to emerge about four years ago, though it’s only been about two years since these businesses really started being accepted by ad agencies. That emergence was driven by the growing appeal of ad exchanges, which were viewed as a valuable tool to help media buyers and marketers — i.e., the “demand side” — better manage the prices and inventory available on real-time bidding systems. On the other end of the ad exchange divide, you have yield optimizers like Pubmatic and The Rubicon Project offering “sell-side” platforms that allow publishers to manage their inventory and get the CPMs they want from RTB.
Like the DSPs mentoned above (except for [X+1], which evolved from its beginnings in 1999), Invite was started around 2007. With interest in DSPs rising at ad agencies and Google having launched a full integration of its Doubleclick Ad Exchange and Google AdWords in the fall of 2009, the search giant saw a gaping hole in its agency strategy.
When Google finally did make the purchase, there were some questions as to whether Invite would represent a conflict for the Doubleclick for Publishers product, but it does appear that Google has been careful about keeping Invite separate.
“There were three things that have gone right in the integration over the last year,” Weinberg said. “For one thing, Google saw that were were growing and allowed us to remain independent of its other systems. Secondly, they put resources behind us, allowing us to double the staff, especially by bringing in more account directors to help grow the business and manage relationships with the agencies. Lastly, we’ve been able to grow out international footprint and are getting ready to roll out new products on a global basis.”
Weinberg wouldn’t say how many staffers Invite has now — a Google rep said that the company doesn’t break out such figures — but sources say that the DSP currently has about 75 employees and is expecting to add to those ranks quickly. There has been a mix of outside hires and internal Google execs who have been brought over to help steer Invite’s business. In April, for example, AdExchanger reported that Bruce Falck shifted from his role as the head of Google Content Network to become Invite’s sales chief.
“My job is to bring in resources, while making sure we don’t smother Invite,” Falck told paidContent during the call with Weinberg. “Obviously, this is a fast moving space and a lot of ground has been covered. As the space evolves, we’re concentrating on creating more products that will allow us to close the gap between online and offline.”
In terms of progress since the purchase of Invite, Falck didn’t have a lot to share, but did say that Google has seen a 175 percent increase in impression volumes. “Invite plugged a gap in our display strategy,” he said. “Acquiring that DSP capability filled out those plans, and without it, we might not have the footprint with the trading desks that we have right now.”
In addition to concentrating on the new products roadmap, the focus for Google and Invite is to build up the DSP’s presence in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Australia and India. “Instead of thinking about how things were going to look in six months, a year, we’re now in a position to take a step back and see how things might look over the next three to five years,” Weinberg said. “That’s where our planning is at the moment.”