DoubleClick Sells @plan to NetRatings

DoubleClick has sold its @plan research business to NetRatings for $18.5 million in cash and stock, at the same time signing a long-term partnership agreement, which calls for @plan and Nielsen//NetRatings data to be incorporated into the online ad giant’s technology products.

“Audience and media research is a critical component of the ad management process and the integration of this information into DoubleClick’s media planning and serving products creates huge value to our customers,” said Doug Knopper, vice president and general manager of advertiser solutions for DoubleClick.

However critical, the business apparently isn’t right for DoubleClick. The deal marks the New York-based online ad giant’s divestiture of all of its research business, a process began when it sold its ad effectiveness unit to Dynamic Logic in December 2001. With this sale, DoubleClick has essentially abandoned its once high-priority plans to build a research capability. It has now effectively closed its Diameter research unit, a division unveiled just a little more than a year ago — the @plan product was its final remaining offering.

Under the terms of the agreement, Nielsen//NetRatings and @plan research will be integrated into DoubleClick’s DART ad serving system, and into its MediaVisor media planning tool. @plan provides media planners and buyers with user lifestyle, demographic and attitudinal information, while Nielsen//NetRatings offers data about Web site traffic and — through its newly-acquired AdRelevance division — information about online advertising. The two companies plan to collaborate on developing reach and frequency campaign planning products.

The agreement with NetRatings also can be seen as DoubleClick effectively placing its “seal of approval” on the company’s audience measurement services. The blessing of the largest online advertising player boosts NetRatings’ credibility at a time when its rival, Jupiter Media Metrix, is suffering financial difficulties.

“This relationship further strengthens our position as the global standard in Internet media and market research,” said William Pulver, president and CEO of NetRatings.

For DoubleClick, the deal continues its efforts to reduce its dependence on non-tech revenues, and to concentrate on its core products. In recent months, DoubleClick has shifted its strategy somewhat, forging more strategic alliances rather than keeping capabilities in-house.

The Dynamic Logic transaction, in which DoubleClick took a 10 percent stake in the smaller research firm, is a classic example of this type of relationship. DoubleClick forged a similar agreement with German Web ad firm AdLINK, offloading its European media network and taking a stake in the buyer. Other strategic relationships for DoubleClick include alliances with Solbright, comScore, CentrPort, and Poindexter Systems.

Both DoubleClick’s and NetRatings’ stock prices were down slightly ($0.10 and $0.23, respectively) at press time.

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