aQuantive Buys Ad4Ever Rich Media Technology

Hoping to get a jumpstart as it builds its own rich media development tool, aQuantive’s Atlas DMT unit has acquired technology assets from Israeli floating ad firm Ad4Ever.

While the company wouldn’t divulge how much it paid, an aQuantive spokesperson acknowledged the purchase included authoring tools, rich media testing tools and infrastructure.

Despite the sale of these assets, Ad4Ever will continue to operate as a standalone company and service its clients in Europe and Israel, according to aQuantive. Ad4Ever has long had an agreement with Unicast whereby the U.S. company has had exclusive distribution rights in this country. AQuantive said Atlas will work with Unicast this year to transition customers who utilize the Ad4Ever technology. Ad4Ever executives didn’t return calls for comment by press time.

The acquisition is aimed at accelerating the development of Atlas’ own rich media solution, which CEO Brian McAndrews divulged was in the works at the company’s Publisher Summit last month. AQuantive’s software is expected to be an answer to DoubleClick’s DART Motif — a rich media development and management tool integrated into the company’s existing ad serving and analytics platform.

The acquisition will also likely get aQuantive’s rich media solution automatic acceptance on many publishers’ sites. The Ad4Ever format is already accepted on Yahoo, AOL, MSN, and, according to a list of publishers on the Ad4Ever site, on hundreds of other sites.

The rich media space has long been dominated by smaller players like Eyeblaster, PointRoll and Unicast, but DoubleClick’s entry into the space last year showed larger companies are looking for ways to capitalize on the high CPM rates commanded by rich media.

Jupiter Research analyst Nate Elliott says aQuantive is smart to hurry into rich media, but he suggests the company would have done better by buying a firm with bigger market share — gaining it both technology and customers.

“I have to imagine they would have had a chance at some of the market leaders, if they’d wanted them,” said Elliott. “The part of the lesson they’re missing is that it’s not so easy to break into this marketplace.”

Indeed, the company has the wherewithal to make acquisitions, having finished its most recent quarter with $137.1 million in cash and short-term investments. It also reported strong earnings and raised its guidance for the full year 2004.

aQuantive has lately been on an acquisition spree, having bought NetConversions and GoToast in recent months in an effort to build its capabilities in Web site optimization and search marketing, respectively. It’s also been at work developing a new operating unit, DrivePM, which will deploy behavioral targeting technology and liaise between advertisers and publishers.

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