Microsoft Jumps in the Ad Company Buyer’s Club

Things have been hot for online advertising companies. Google bought DoubleClick for $3.1 billion, followed by Yahoo’s $650 million purchase of Right Media. Now Microsoft jumps to prove they’re not out of the online advertising game with a whopping $6 billion purchase of aQuantive in a move to expand their breadth of paid opportunities on web sites, Internet television, video on demand, and other places online.

While Google, Yahoo and MSN all run their own competing search engines with paid opportunities on these engines, the acquisition of these networks shows their vision of a future dominated by new forms of advertising. While paid search is now paid on a per-click basis, the ability to leverage banner ads and ads within rich media offers advertisers the ability to say a whole lot more to their desired audience. To be seen is how much search engines use data about user searches to correspond ads to likely targets — the ability to hone in on target markets is extremely alluring to advertisers, and feared by privacy advocates (Google, at least, says they do not intend to use their search data to improve ad targeting).

Whether the aQuantive purchase will solidify a rather rocky position for Microsoft’s online advertising portals waits to be seen, but the commitment of the Redmond giant to not be outpaced in the industry is clear. And with billions of advertising dollars on the tables, the stakes have never been higher.