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As Google Extinguishes Wildfire, What’s Next for Social Advertising?

Written on
Mar 25, 2014 
Author
Richard L. Tso  |

ADOTAS – When Google purchased Wildfire for a cool $350 million back in 2012, social advertising was in its heyday and the industry was still trying to figure out a clear way to convert earned media into paid. Wildfire, Buddy Media and Virtue were red-hot companies that year, helping brands and advertisers create and manage their social presences and pages on Facebook. Even the buttoned-up likes of Salesforce.com and Oracle jumped on the social media bandwagon, acquiring Buddy Media and Virtue respectively.

The social ad hype certainly has died down dramatically in recent months, with Google recently announcing that it will be winding down Wildfire and will no longer be signing up new customers. Google now plans to integrate the Wildfire technology into its existing ad serving platform, DoubleClick – a move which, according to Folke Lemaitre, CEO of real-time customer management platform Engagor, perfect sense.

“Social ads can’t stand on their own; they are part of a bigger advertising landscape,” said Lemaitre. “Google understands that marketers need a tool that supports and analyzes all advertising efforts at once. By integrating the Wildfire technology into DoubleClick, they further optimize this tool to fit the needs of marketers.”

According to Business Insider, Wildfire has been contacting its impressive roster of clients like Cisco, Amazon, Dairy Queen and McCann informing them that services will cease in late 2015. While this news is somewhat perplexing to social advertising veterans, it makes room for a new crop of socially integrated ad technologies aimed at driving social interactions with brands across the entire web, and not just within the walled gardens of Facebook.

“When Google bought Wildfire in 2012, it seemed social in general, and Facebook in particular, was destined for huge growth, and companies like Wildfire would grow along with them,” said Vince Broady, founder and CEO of Thismoment. “As things turned out, Facebook did indeed grow, but they didn’t need companies like Wildfire to do it. As a bit of a one-trick pony, Wildfire was unable to find a new market opportunity, so Google reallocated the resources somewhere else.”

Thismoment touts a catchy slogan of “Any Content, Anywhere” and believes that content is the core foundational element in the relationship between brands and people. Thismoment operates on the core premise that once brands have great content, they can deliver amazing experiences to audiences, enable brands to effortlessly access earned or owned content from any source, and then transform it into an engaging user experience on any device and any channel.

“[We take] a very different approach than Wildfire and Buddy Media, which were focused on posts, page management and ads, versus content or experience, almost exclusively on Facebook,” explained Broady. “Where they focused on simple widgets (polls, quizzes, that sort of thing), we focused on user-generated content programs — with media uploads, voting, fraud detection, etc. — and live events. Where they emphasized rigid, templated pages, we developed APIs to allow for full creative freedom on the front end.  And where their end point was primarily Facebook desktop, our endpoints were across multiple devices and channels, right from the start.”

As an example, Thismoment powered Bank of America’s “Salute the Troops” campaign that combined paid, owned and earned media placements on digital billboards on Times Square, Facebook and rich media ad units across the Web. This campaign demonstrated the progressively wider reach of socially-integrated media approaches now embraced and sought out by big brands.

Regarding Google’s decision to sunset Wildfire, Lemaitre added, “The same shift is taking place in the social media tools landscape. In the early days you had monitoring tools, analytics tools and engagement tools. Nowadays all three pillars are being combined into one single platform. Social media managers want a complete overview of all their social media activities. That is why I believe the integration of social media ads will be the next big thing for social media management platforms.”

Broady added, “We actually faced a similar situation at Thismoment. From 2010-2012, YouTube drove a lot of our business, as we launched hundreds of YouTube brand channels on our system. And for a lot of reasons, that business dropped off for us considerably. But were able to weather that storm and keep growing, because of our vision. We aren’t just about video; we’re about content. And we’re not just about YouTube; we’re about every digital touchpoint. We think this is proof positive that ‘Any content, anywhere’ is a much bigger idea than people realize.”





Richard L. Tso is a reporter for Adotas and an avid writer covering the intersection of technology and advertising, fashion and music. With over 12 years of experience in the Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations industries, Richard has held executive positions at global agencies and technology companies and is founder of the interactive communications firm Pseudosound Consulting LLC. A classical cellist and painter, he believes that sometimes sound carries more weight than words. He is a graduate of Stanford University.

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