Until we see how Google invests in and integrates AdMob, I am not as inclined as most to call this a "game-changer." Having seen that "game-changing" AOL buyout of Third Screen years ago, Microsoft's acquisition of Screen Tonic and Nokia's of Enpocket, I prefer to wait and see what talent stays or goes and how much Google subordinates the mobile ad network to everything else. Given the checkered history of mobile ad network buyouts, it is unclear what a larger Web company really wants to do (or knows what to do) with a mobile network and its technology. Things change when a company gets eaten, especially by a company whose bread is buttered so well elsewhere. The more interesting piece will be how the rest of the ad networks respond over time, whether Google comes back to eat another one of the fish in the pond, or whether some of the remaining fish start eating one another.
I prefer to take the approach of Captain Renault in "Casablanca": AdMob has been eaten, round up the usual suspects. I pinged all of the CEOs at the ad networks that didn't get tapped for this deal to ask their first impressions. And yes, almost all did say that it "validates" the market for the rest of them.
But just to get it out of the way: Paul Palmieri, CEO of that other enormous mobile net Millennial Media, calls the deal "astounding" insofar as Google seems to be acknowledging in the buy that mobile is not a mere extensions of the Web.. "Today Google validated what many companies including Millennial have thought for years - that mobile is a different market with a huge potential for advertising; possibly a bigger opportunity than online media."
Dave Gwozdz, CEO of Mojiva, liked the fact that Google was willing to pay dearly for AdMob. "The market has definitely matured to the point where it makes sense for online behemoths to try to combine networks, analytics and delivery technologies in the hopes of capturing a share of this growing market," he says.
JumpTap, which claims its search and carrier data gives it superior targeting capabilities in the market, says it anticipated consolidation. When I spoke with CEO Paran Johar for the current OMMA magazine cover article on the mobile ad net "wars," he noted the inevitability of a shakeout.
Yesterday in a statement, Johar acknowledged that Google/AdMob does put some competitive pressure on the market. "The industry front runner will be determined by who can deliver the most advanced targeting capabilities for better ROI for advertisers and publishers."
Like Palmieri, Quattro Wireless's Andy Miller sees Google recognizing the need for discrete technology and skill sets to deploy mobile well. Additionally, he says, "This is a catalyst event, so likely it will make other players take a look at what they need to do to take advantage of the growth in consumer, advertiser and publisher interest in mobile to impact their own growth."
While the ad nets see Google's buy-in as acknowledgement of mobile's exceptional nature, ADObjects CEO Matthew Snyder comes at it from the opposite angle. "This is an indication of the convergence of mobile and online," he says. The traditional Web players are positioning themselves to extend dominance onto the mobile Web. They are in the better position to buy their way onto carrier decks, and so the remaining ad nets may do well to look for their own Google. "If the others do not exit fast to the likes of AOL, Yahoo, [and] Microsoft, then the mobile-only approach will start to suffer, as there is really only one Internet."
Joy Liuzzo, Senior Director of Mobile Research at InsightExpress, echoes my sense that this deal all boils down to what Google really wants to do with AdMob. There is a tremendous opportunity here for great ad targeting from search box data as well as a richer, more monetizable development platform across both iPhone and Android. "Mobile doesn't need to be validated, it needs a huge infusion of cash to drive development and get over some serious hurdles," she says. "Money is what Google can provide, and they are getting a nice base -- and proven reputation -- to build from."
And lest we forget: How long ago did Google buy DoubleClick? Meanwhile, the proliferation of ad networks only widened. Finally, in the last few months we see Google making its more serious attempt to integrate these businesses in the new ad exchange. The game has barely started, let alone been changed.