Just An Online Minute... AQuantive Snares A Fish

The online sector is really chugging along these days.

AQuantive, the parent company of Avenue A, I-Frontier and Atlas DMT, today announced it scooped up SBI.Razorfish. The proposed $160 million deal for the Web services firm, is only the latest in a series of expansion moves by aQuantive. Late last year, Atlas DMT snapped up Go Toast, a provider of paid search management and optimization services, and the Atlas unit, overall, has been aggressive in rolling out new products and services. Then, there's Google's $2.7 billion IPO and America Online's big surprise last week that it acquired Advertising.com for a cool $435 million. Salesforce.com is set for an IPO, though it has been delayed for a bit to allow for the media buzz to recede.

Interestingly, and perhaps not at all coincidentally, a new report from Forrester Research found that SBI.Razorfish, as well as Critical Mass and Agency.com, stood out among a pack of web design agencies as offering, "exceptional user-centered design and strong creativity." Forrester assessed 17 of the largest companies that design and build consumer-facing websites, grading them on transaction-driven and image-led performance.

Hard to believe that this is the same Razorfish headed by frontmen Jeff Dachis and Craig Kanarick, who during the heady dotcom boom days were raking in cash by the truckload. Before too long, the crash came and the frontmen retreated into the ether. Nary a vestige of those days exists now. That's probably a good thing, though I hadn't heard a peep from the agency until last month's Ad:Tech.

To be sure, aQuantive wanted the firm because of its strong online development expertise, something it doesn't currently have. The plan, aQuantive says, is to combine Avenue A with Razorfish (nixing the "SBI," which we always found clumsy and ridiculous), to form a hybrid online media buying and website development agency. Combined, the pair form the largest independent online services agency and the fourth largest interactive agency in the U.S.

Ironically, or not so, I was to meet SBI.Razorfish execs in New York last Wednesday (June 23). The meeting was postponed so that Darin Brown, the EVP from San Francisco could join us. That meeting takes place on Wednesday, June 30. Timing.