Google has inked a deal to acquire Invite Media to add a demand-side platform to its suite of advertiser technology tools.
Invite Media, founded in 2007 by students at the University of Pennsylvania, provides technology to advertisers and agencies to help them bid on exchanges like Google's DoubleClick Ad Exchange. Called BidManager, the technology allows agencies to bid on individual ad impressions based on their audience segments in real time.
The DSP space has exploded in the past year, as exchanges and inventory aggregators like the Rubicon Project, AdMeld and PubMatic open up ad space that can be bought on an audience basis. Invite competes with DSPs like Turn and MediaMath.
Neal Mohan, vp of product management at Google, said Invite Media stood out from its peers in its evaluation of the space based on the amount of value it brought to customers like Publicis Groupe.
"We were incredibly impressed with the technology and the team," he said. "They built a tremendous business and are really focused on the product. They partner closely with their clients."
All Things D first reported the acquisition yesterday. It pegs the purchase price at $70 million. Google declined to divulge the price it paid.
The deal raises major questions whether Invite Media's agency clients will continue working with the company as part of Google. Publicis and Google collaborate broadly, but using technology owned by Google could make ad buyers uncomfortable, competitors have suggested.
"It's important to be agnostic," said Bill Demas, CEO of Turn. "We don't have any inherent conflicts being an independent player."
Mohan said Google is committed to open systems. He said Invite Media would operate as a neutral platform technology, in much the same way as agencies use DoubleClick tools to buy ads in many places. Google plans to integrate Invite Media with its DoubleClick for Advertisers platform. Mohan emphasized that Google is committed to Invite Media retaining the ability to work across multiple ad exchanges, not just Google's.
"Our intention is for all our technologies to be as open as possible," he said. "It's a neutral platform."
Curt Hecht, head of the VivaKi Nerve Center, the Publicis Groupe unit that works with Invite Media, said he didn't think Google's ownership would be an issue so long as Invite Media operates as it has and can help it access inventory via a variety of sources.
"My point of view is as long as Invite Media is still able to connect with the other exchanges and be interoperable, there shouldn't be an issue," he said. "My hope is they invest in it and make it more than U.S. I just don't want [Invite Media] to get slowed down, either."
Google's purchase will also put the spotlight on others in the crowded DSP space. Microsoft could buy one of the leading players. The question also remains whether advertising holding companies will add their own or continue working with a variety of sources.
"This is a great validation of the segment," said Demas. "It's confirmation that marketers are moving away from buying content to ultimately buying audiences. They're looking to centralize their buys and integrate with companies that help them do that."