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The ad tech industry will undergo a “combination of consolidation and expansion,” Rubicon Project CEO and founder Frank Addante told VentureBeat today, the day after his company announced its purchase of intent marketing firm Chango.

“Probably [there will be] only a few, full-stack marketplace plays,” he said, obviously indicating that Rubicon, a digital ad buying-and-selling automated exchange, would be one. Around these will grow a new ecosystem of companies, he said, not unlike the way there are a few, full-service stock exchanges but thousands of financial firms that are built up around them.

Forrester analyst Susan Bidel pointed out that the evolution of this sector into an ecosystem-around-hubs “depends on whether VC [venture capital] money is available” for more ad tech plays.

One of the factors driving the ongoing trend in ad tech acquisitions, she noted, is “a lot of companies have been around 5, 7, 9 years and investors are [now] looking for an exit.”

Another driver, she said, is that “larger entities prefer to work with larger entities” rather than a variety of point solutions, especially since automation is making it “very hard to figure out who’s offering a process or product that’s distinguishable.”

Rubicon, which went public in April of last year, has estimated that intent marketing is worth about $35 billion in keyword and contextual marketing, and in ad retargeting. Intent marketing uses various parts of a user’s data trail — a search query, for instance, or a viewed web page — as a measure of buying interest in a particular product or subject.


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The price for intent data marketer Chango, Rubicon’s seventh purchase, was about $122 million in cash and stock. Bidel said the acquisition is “another step” by Rubicon toward the buying side of an ad exchange, since the company originally began on the ad-space-selling side as a supply-side platform.

Stewart Rogers, VB Insight director of marketing technology, told me today that “the recent Google/Twitter deal means that intent marketing could be coming to the masses,” through such mainstream tools as Google AdWords.

That deal, in which the two tech giants recently announced that tweets would henceforth be available in Google search results, means a 140-character update about your recent purchase of a car could be scooped up by an ad-serving company and used to direct a Twitter ad your way about car accessories.

Addante noted that, while intent data has long been an important part of search-based advertising because of queries, “it’s not been in the premium part of the market.” A search query for bicycles in Google, for instance, shows that you’re interested in that product, but, while that kind of data is accessible to publishers and others, he said it’s been difficult to use that effectively.

“Just cause you search for bicycles doesn’t mean you’re in the market for a bike,” Addante told me. But if you also read an article in the Wall Street Journal about new bikes, “the Journal sees that and Chango takes them both.” This builds a more complete intent profile of that anonymous user.

But Rogers said that Twitter’s additional data for the Google ad machine “is more than just [about] serving social messages.”

“It is about Google getting access to new ad types,” he said, using Twitter-based intent marketing signals.

That tweet, for instance, can also be used to build up your profile, either based on your Twitter handle or correlating it to, say, your email address. A more complete profile can mean more targeted ads.

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