Google’s Invite Media Acquisition Raises Conflicts of Interest

Google (s GOOG) has acquired Invite Media, a young startup that helps advertisers optimize how they spend their money across different exchanges and platforms in real time. Invite Media in a way completes Google’s advertising suite, but the deal also poses questions about lock-in, given Google also owns the DoubleClick Ad Exchange and the DoubleClick for Advertisers ad-serving platform.

Google confirmed the acquisition today, but full credit for the scoop on the deal goes to Peter Kafka at MediaMemo, who says it’s worth $70 million or perhaps even higher.

The deal is a vote of confidence by Google in the fast-growing and trendy ad technology of demand-side platforms. But it also muddies the waters, to some extent. Invite Media CEO Nat Turner wrote in a guest column for AdExchanger in February that a “true DSP” must be transparent and fully self-service, but it must also “remain neutral and have zero allegiances to any publishers, exchanges, data providers or other vendors.” Turner added, “The DSP should not, under any circumstances, own or operate an ad network. This is in direct conflict with the neutrality aspect.”

To try to dissipate some of that tension, Google VP of product management Neal Mohan said in the company’s blog post announcing the deal that “Invite Media‚Äôs platform will of course continue to be available to any agency or advertiser, whether they use DFA or not.” He added that Invite Media and DoubleClick Ad Exchange would continue to operate independently, providing “open and neutral access” rather than aligning themselves together. Sure, but if there weren’t a justification for improving Google’s current offerings by adding Invite Media, the acquisition would never have happened.