Despite dismal record, merger fever rages — WPP to buy 24/7 Real Media

UpdatedForget the historical record, which says that the majority of mergers fail financially (pick your reading from any of these articles).

The Internet advertising sector is in all-out merger mode, with new online start-ups emerging daily causing angst among the big guys, pushing big players to gobble up other big guys or the best of the smaller ones. The WPP Group, the world’s second-largest advertising company focused mostly on traditional offline ads, just announced it plans to buy 24/7 Real Media, an online advertising company, for about $649 million.

Most Internet companies, from the smallest start-ups to the large ones are feeling pain, as the landscape changes and they try to keep up with this fast-moving world. New targeting technologies make it possible to reach consumers in a variety of ways, and the slow will die, the swift and the innovative will win. Other mega deals lately include Google’s $3.1 billion agreement to buy DoubleClick (WPP has called Google a “frienemy”), Yahoo’s $680 million deal to buy the rest of Right Media, and Publicis’ $1.3 billion purchase of Digitas. Yesterday AOL acquired a controlling interest in Adtech AG, a German online ad-serving company for a reported $100 million. Smaller deals are happening at a furious pace, too, for example in the mobile ad market. The stakes are huge, because it affects all sectors, including the $55 billion TV market, which is increasingly interactive, and moving online.

WPP said it had signed a deal to buy 24/7 Real Media‘s shares for $11.75 each, a 30 percent premium over their average closing price for the last 60 trading days, according to Reuters.

WPP has made moves in the start-up world, too, having invested in smaller ad companies, including SpotRunner, which offers a Web-based dashboard for advertisers to place television commercials (and recently raised $40 million), and online video game network WildTangent, a Redmond, WA company that has raised more than $50 million from VCs.