The announcement on Friday set the listserve's a twitter, and by noon, the newly created monster had a name: "Double-Goo." For those of us in display advertising, the prospect of Google acquiring Doubleclick has all the makings of a horror film. And so far, the news has triggered the same reaction as the debut of "Friday the 13th," including widespread fear and lots of nightmares.
There's a sense of hopelessness that hits you when you consider the merging of the undisputed master of CPC with the engine behind most CPM. You can't stop it. You might as well name it, right? Hence, Double-Goo.
But, I have words of consolation. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself… maybe.
Fear is the natural reaction here because the move doesn't jibe with Google's stated strategy. Last I checked, Google's benevolent mantra was "organizing the world's information." Are they now starting with banner ads? They just spent a quarter of their free cash on an ad server. Now that Wall Street has a say in the company, I'd say the mantra is to become the dominant player in online advertising.
Cue the spooky music.
But I should relax. For the next year or so, the fear of Double-Goo will be worse than the monster itself. Whoever thinks that this is going to change the online advertising landscape overnight is sorely mistaken. Google just inherited every legacy code issue it never had. Even for the best coders on the planet, it will take a long time to make a master dish out of Doubleclick's spaghetti code that goes back to 1997 with the introduction of DART. Doubleclick's latest development, the bided exchange, could see a pretty rapid integration with Google’s ad serving system. But are you going to trust it?
Fear is the worst thing that could be spawned by the acquisition, for Google and for the industry. Anyone thinking about innovating in the online advertising space has to wonder whether there's a monster in the rearview mirror now. Could the Double-Goo monster have something better buried in its black boxes? Could it propagate overnight with its Doubleclick distribution? It's hard to imagine that this millennium's best known entrepreneurs could stifle the very innovation that made them great, but it's entirely possible with the fear this creates.
Anyone who says they've created the "next Google" is going to get a snort, a giggle and a paper cut from getting their business plan back so quickly. Why try something better when there's a monster like Double-Goo staring over your shoulder? The prospect of competing with such a presence in the marketplace tends to stall innovation and force startups into a defensive stance. That's the worst that could happen. We have to keep innovating. The monster doesn't have you in its sights. Or does it?
Fear could be the worst reaction for Google as well. Doubleclick, which has arguably maintained a Switzerland-like position in display advertising, is going to have a serious PR challenge if it wants to be perceived as neutral. You can see the pitch now: Never mind that the official is wearing the other team's uniform. He's un-biased. Really.
Seriously though, Google has an amazing reputation for being reliable, but PR isn't its forte. From click fraud to author's rights, Google has stumbled in the court of public opinion. Fear could work against Google as well.
One thing is certain. This merger signifies the maturing of our industry. You can't start an online company with a good idea and a couple of credit cards any more.
You'd be competing with too many well-heeled monsters.
And so, my friends in the banner industry, we have nothing to fear but fear
itself… well, that and an 800-pound Gorilla named "Double-Goo."
Cue the spooky music.
Cree Lawson is founder and CEO of Travel Ad Network. Read full bio.