AT&T, T-Mobile Deal Collapse Is Good News for Ad Sellers

The unraveling of AT&T’s $39 billion bid to acquire T-Mobile, reported today by the Wall Street Journal, is a happy development for online media sellers – who will be spared the merger of two large ad budgets.

AT&T is the second largest U.S. advertiser across all media and the sixth largest buyer of online ads. It spent $186.8 million on paid search and display advertising during the first nine months of 2011, according to Kantar Media. That’s 11 percent more than it forked over in 2010 – all the more remarkable when you consider that the company’s ad spend slowed dramatically in the weeks after it inked the agreement to buy T-Mobile. (According to Kantar, T-Mobile and AT&T both increased their media spending as government approval of their deal looked doubtful.)

Meanwhile T-Mobile is a smaller but still important source of demand for display ad sellers. The wireless brand boosted its online display spending significantly in each of the last two years, spending 37.4 million in 2009 and $53.8 million in 2010 (see chart below).

While one can’t be sure the companies would have reduced their combined marketing spend post-merger, that’s typically been the way with such deals. 

T-Mobile Online Display Ad Spending
Annual in Millions, 2006-2010
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
$35m $29m $39.3m $37.4m $53.8m
Data provided by Kantar Media, 2011

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