DoubleClick In Talks To Acquire Real Media

Two of the largest players in Web ad serving could become one, as sources close to industry leader DoubleClick say the company is in talks to acquire competitor Real Media.

According to sources, New York-based DoubleClick is negotiating with the smaller firm and its parent, Swiss ad sales giant PubliGroupe, for the sale of Real Media’s OpenAdStream ad serving software for an unknown sum. As a result, Real Media itself would exit what has become, in recent weeks, its chief business.

The deal could conclude as early as Monday evening, while the sale will be announced later this week, sources said.

Officials from DoubleClick and Real Media declined to comment.

The news is the second major change to hit Real Media in recent weeks. Last month, at PubliGroupe’s behest, Alley-based Real Media reduced its businesses from a full-service ad network and technology firm to concentrate on ad serving alone. The move had come in conjunction with PubliGroupe’s heaver-than-expected quarterly losses, attributable to its online divisions — of which Real Media is the largest.

At the time, PubliGroupe said that by shifting Real Media’s focus to technology sales — thought to be less impacted by the severe downturn in online advertising — the company would be better equipped to ride out the current industry-wide troubles. (A similar move had been made in August by CMGI’s Engage, which abandoned its media businesses to concentrate on selling marketing technology software.)

But now, PubliGroupe evidently is changing tack to divest itself entirely of the unit, which until recently had been the fourth-largest ad network in the business — behind DoubleClick, 24/7 Media and Engage.

Of the group, Real Media had won a measure of distinction for being the only third-party ad server to not use cross-network profiling. The company had believed that its avoidance of “global cookies,” which enable networks to target an ad on the basis of user activity elsewhere in the network, would appeal to advertisers and publishers eager to retain sole ownership of their user activity data and not have it re-purposed for other advertisers’ and publishers’ use.

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