DoubleClick was founded in 1996 by Kevin O'Connor and Dwight Merriman. It was formerly listed as "DCLK" on the NASDAQ, and was purchased by private equity firms Hellman & Friedman and JMI Equity in July 2005. In March 2008, Google acquired DoubleClick for US$3.1 billion. Unlike many other dot-com companies, it survived the bursting of the dot-com bubble. Today, it focuses on uploading ads and reporting their performance.
DoubleClick was founded as one of the earliest known Application Service Provider (ASP) for internet "ad-serving", primarily banner ads. After an IPO on the NASDAQ under the "DCLK" ticker symbol in early 1998, the company was associated with an internet traffic report including Yahoo!, AOL, Alta Vista and Excite where the company was listed within the top 10 internet websites in the world—when it was delivering as many ad impressions at the time as these early major internet properties were delivering page views. Its DoubleClick DART (Dynamic Advertising Reporting & Targeting) ASP/SaaS ad-serving technology allowed clear targeting and reporting of ad-serving per media property for websites within its network and technology sectors.
In 1999, at a cost of US $1.7 billion, DoubleClick merged with the data-collection agency Abacus Direct, which works with offline catalog companies. This raised fears that the combined company would link anonymous Web-surfing profiles with personally identifiable information (name, address, telephone number, e-mail, address, etc.) collected by Abacus. This merger made waves and was heavily criticized by privacy organizations. It was discovered that sensitive financial information users entered on a popular Web site that offered financial software was being sent to DoubleClick, which delivered the advertisements. Much of this controversy was generated by statements made by Jason Catlett of Junkbusters, who claimed that DoubleClick was doing and/or intended to do things that it had never mentioned or included in any planned or announced service. The Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation into DoubleClick's collection and compilation of personal information shortly after the Abacus acquisition, in reaction to which DoubleClick announced that it would not merge the DoubleClick and Abacus databases. The FTC concluded its investigation in early 2001.
In April 2005, Hellman & Friedman, a San Francisco-based private equity firm, announced its intent to acquire the company and operate it as two separate divisions with two separate CEOs for TechSolutions and Data Marketing. The deal was closed in July 2005. Hellman & Friedman announced in December 2006 the sale of Abacus to Epsilon Interactive, whose parent company is AllianceData Systems Corporation.
Acquisition by Google, Inc.
Google announced on April 13, 2007 that it had come to a definitive agreement to acquire DoubleClick for US $3.1 billion in cash.
US lawmakers have investigated possible privacy and antitrust implications of the proposed acquisition. At hearings, representatives from Microsoft warned of a potential monopolistic effect. On December 20, 2007, the FTC approved Google's purchase of DoubleClick from its owners Hellman & Friedman and JMI Equity, saying, "After carefully reviewing the evidence, we have concluded that Google's proposed acquisition of DoubleClick is unlikely to substantially lessen competition." European Union regulators followed suit on March 11, 2008. Google completed the acquisition later that day.
On April 2, 2008, Google announced it would cut 300 jobs at DoubleClick due to organizational redundancies. Selected employees would be matched within the Google organization as per position and experience.
DoubleClick is often linked with the controversy over spyware because browser HTTP cookies are set to track users as they travel from website to website and record which commercial advertisements they view and select while browsing.
DoubleClick has also been criticized for misleading users by offering an opt-out option that is insufficiently effective. According to a San Francisco IT consulting group, although the opt-out option affects cookies, DoubleClick does not allow users to opt out of IP address-based tracking.
DoubleClick with MSN were shown serving malware via drive-by download exploits by a group of attackers for some time in December 2010.
DoubleClick offers technology products and services that are sold primarily to advertising agencies and media companies to allow clients to traffic, target, deliver, and report on their interactive advertising campaigns. The company's main product line is formally known as DART, which is designed for advertisers and publishers. DART automates the administration effort in the ad buying cycle for advertisers (DoubleClick for Advertisers, or DFA) and the management of ad inventory for publishers (DoubleClick for Publishers, or DFP). It is intended to increase the purchasing efficiency of advertisers and to minimize unsold inventory for publishers. DART Enterprise is the rebranded version of NetGravity AdServer, which DoubleClick acquired with its purchase of NetGravity in 1999. Unlike the DFA and DFP products which are both Software as a Service SaaS products, DART Enterprise is a standalone product running on Linux. In 2004, DoubleClick acquired Performics. Performics offers affiliate marketing, search engine optimization, and search engine marketing solutions. The marketing solutions were integrated into the core DART system and rebranded DART search. DoubleClick Advertising Exchange (released Q2 2007) attempts to go even further by connecting both media buyers and sellers on an advertising exchange much like a traditional stock exchange.
DoubleClick targets along various criteria. Targeting can be accomplished using IP addresses, business rules set by the client or by reference to information about users stored within cookies on their machines. Some of the types of information collected are:
- Web browser
- Operating System
- Time of day
In addition, the cookie information may be used to target ads based on the number of times the user has been exposed to any given message. This is known as "frequency capping".