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Microsoft's Acquisition of aQuantive Jabs at Google-DoubleClick

Who knew? Back in April when I interviewed aQuantive CEO Brian McAndrews for the ad:tech San Francisco opening keynote, "The Digital Decade: What the Past 5 Years Can Teach Us About the Next 5," the industry was abuzz about the impending Google-DoubleClick merger. And not once did McAndrews let on that a similar merger was about to happen for his company. What's the old adage, "Silent but powerful," or "Silent but deadly," or something to that affect.

Today, Microsoft announced that it would pay $6 billion in cash for aQuantive, paying an 85 percent premium, with aQuantive shareholders receiving $66.50 a share. This would be the largest acquisition in the company's history. And while aQuantive's shares rose more than 77 percent after the announcement, Microsoft shares fell 1.1 percent.

The merger between technology company and advertising company is becoming a trend. Google recently agreed to buy DoubleClick for $3.1 billion, while Yahoo acquired 80 percent of Right Media in a deal valued at $680 million, and yesterday WPP Group said it would acquire 24/7 Real Media for $649 million.

Microsoft continues to lag behind Google and Yahoo in search traffic and search advertising revenue, so scooping up one of the largest digital agencies, which includes Avenue A |Razorfish, Atlas, and DRIVEpm, might be one of the smartest moves the software giant has made in a long time.

How will all of this merger activity affect the advertising industry? Will the industry become more competitive or more restrictive? With all of the major power in only a few hands, it would seem it wouldn't be good for the industry at large (just look at what happened to the music industry), but who knows, as advertising continues to move toward integration and becomes more digital-centric this could be the only way to go.