Google has just bought social marketing software developer Wildfire — provider of software that links to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and other social networks, allowing customers to manage their online brand and presence, with clients including Sony Corp and Amazon.com. Several sources and blogs say the sale price was around $250 million.
Founded by Victoria Ransom and Alain Chuard in 2008, Wildfire has about 400 employees and powers social media marketing for more than 16,000 businesses, including 30 of the top 50 global brands. Google plans to slot Wildfire into a group of online ad services offered through its DoubleClick business.
The acquisition will allow Google to provide advanced software and services to brands who want to run contests, sweepstakes, branded games and more on Google+. Wildfire will still operate as a marketing tool for brands on Google’s competing platforms, including Facebook, putting the search giant in a curious position where it earns money on the success of its rivals.
Google recognise that owned and earned is as important as paid — in equal measure. Whilst the assemblance of the DDM promises to be one of the best in class end-to-end solutions in paid media, there is clearly a gap in their stack, namely around social. The announcement of the Wildfire acquisition yesterday arguably plugs that gap.
Google commented that, “it’s a platform for brands to manage their pages, apps, tweets, videos, sponsorships, ads, promotions and more, all in one place,” Mountain View, California-based Google said in a blog posting today about Wildfire. “The ultimate goal is better and fresher content, and more meaningful interactions.”
When you consider that this is likely to be integrated into DFA, it certainly lifts Google out of the automated/programmatic/algorithmic camp and into, simply, digital marketing execution; but Google hasn’t directly entered the social ad buying space yet. Let’s not forget that Wildfire never really had social buying capabilities, Wildfire only offers ad buying through a partnership with startup Adaptly. Now it’s successfully bought one of Facebook’s biggest marketing partners.
Google bid on buying Buddy Media, but lost the deal to Salesforce. With Oracle buying other social marketing leaders, Vitrue and Involver, Wildfire was the last top-tier startup in the space. Yesterday’s deal leaves ThisMoment, another popular marketing platform, as a possible buy for old-world enterprise juggernauts like IBM or SAP.
Damian Routley, Director, Glow Digital Media, comments: “Google’s acquisition of Wildfire is likely to bring the first public skirmish between the two Valley giants. Facebook has very blatantly denied DoubleClick as an approved tracking vendor (essential for the new view tag beta), indicating an intent to protect their valuable social graph data. Now access to this information could be much easier. Furthermore Google can’t make, let alone sell, a viable social product to advertisers. With this alliance they’re bringing some great talent to help them do so. Whether or not Facebook move away from their use of Wildfire’s platform will be an indicator of how threatened they are by this acquisition.”
Paul Turner, General Manager EMEA, Adaptly, adds: “We believe that the opportunities in social media are huge, and we are still only seeing the tip of the iceberg. This acquisition is further validation of the space. At Adaptly, we continue to partner and work with Wildfire; together, we are committed to providing our combined offerings in earned and paid social media for the clients we serve together and push the boundaries in terms of social media creativity and innovation.”
Will this continue? Time will tell. What this does tell you about this deal, is that Google is betting big on the growing importance of content creation, curation and distribution. They’ll no doubt be able to make this more data-driven, another “holy grail” no doubt some will proclaim.
There is a sizeable amount of potential conflict with the deal and we expect this acquisition to drag on. Not least because of the increasingly complex relationship between Wildfire, Facebook and Google.
Wildfire manages many of Facebook’s own pages, and Google will effectively be selling a tool to
promote the usage of a competing social platform, Facebook (versus Google+). So it is fair to say this
deal isn’t completely straightforward.