Inside Google's Advertising Empire

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Google Acquires Teracent
's gobbling up another advertising company, the search giant has announced. Google will acquire Teracent, a Silicon Valley startup specializing in "intelligent display advertising." Yep -- that means more online ads customized specifically for your visit.

Teracent, of course, is far from Google's first foray into the online advertising world; as most people who use the Web can't help but know, Google-served ads are practically everywhere these days. Here's an overall look at Google's ad-related acquisitions and how they play into your online life.

Teracent: Google's Display-Advertising Acquisition

Reading the way Google describes Teracent, it's not hard to understand how it'll fit into the company's advertising ecosystem.

"Teracent's technology can pick and choose from literally thousands of creative elements of a display ad in real-time -- tweaking images, products, messages or colors," Google's official blog posting explains. "These elements can be optimized depending on factors like geographic location, language, the content of the website, the time of day or the past performance of different ads."

Teracent's technology is expected to become available to advertisers using Google's Content Network and DoubleClick program. Yahoo, incidentally, announced an advertising partnership with Teracent earlier this year. There's no word yet how the Google acquisition could affect that relationship (though "badly" might be a logical guess).

Google's Past Ad Acquisitions

The Teracent acquisition comes just two weeks after Google announced it was buying mobile advertising provider AdMob -- a deal worth a whopping $750 million in stock. AdMob focuses primarily on display ads and mobile application ads. Translation: Get ready to see a whole lot of Google-powered advertising on your mobile phone.

Prior to AdMob, Google's ad-related acquisitions had revolved around the Web and even the airwaves. (Some say the G-gang is also aiming for in-brain advertising, though I'm pretty sure those rumors are unfounded.) So what are some of the other noteworthy purchases, and how have they affected you? Time for the quick tour:

DoubleClick: Bought for $3.1 billion in 2007, DoubleClick delivered a massive network of advertisers into Google's already-strong advertising system. You can thank DoubleClick for all the Google-run display and rich-media ads around the Net -- prior to DC's entry, those had been a relatively small part of Google's advertising empire.

AdScape: In-game advertising firm AdScape entered the Google domain in March of 2007, drawing speculation of massive Google-led virtual worlds on the way. To its credit, Google did launch Lively last summer. It took only a matter of months, however, for the service -- which, by some accounts, had turned largely into a virtual teenage groping ground -- to get shut down.

What's AdScape doing now? Good question. It's somewhere in Google's advertising empire, just presumably in a quiet corner. One day, though, the big G's targeted advertising may pop up in a game near you.

dMarc Broadcasting: Even further down on the list of not-quite-so-successful ad attempts is dMarc Broadcasting, bought by Google in January of 2006. The company was meant to help Google get into radio advertising, and it did -- for a short while.

Earlier this year, the Google radio ad idea died, effectively sending dMarc to the gDump and Google ads off of America's airwaves.

Applied Semantics: Ah, the one that started it all. Google grabbed Applied Semantics in 2003, marking the beginning of the AdSense program and Google's status as a serious advertising player. You know all those little text ads that pop up on Google searches and on countless other Web sites? You can thank Applied Semantics for getting that ball rolling and providing the foundation for the various Google ads we see today.

Google Acquisitions: The Next Steps

So who's next on Google's acquisition wish list? Possibly Microsoft or Digg, if you buy into these satirical suggestions (I wouldn't advise it).

In reality, though, the one safe prediction to make is that we'll see plenty more Google purchases soon, and odds are, it won't be long before one of them brings another new twist to the company's massive ad network. If you want anything more specific, well, you can try Googling it -- but I somehow doubt you'll find the answer.

JR Raphael is co-founder of geek-humor site eSarcasm. You can keep up with him on Twitter: @jr_raphael.

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