Wildfire Only Sells Ads Through Its Partner Adaptly, So Will Google Buy Them Too?

Wildfire, just acquired by Google, isn’t a social ads company. It relies on its partner Adaptly for access to ads APIs for Facebook and other sites. That means Google may buy Adaptly or another ads company any minute now. Otherwise Google will have to split the profits of social ads Wildfire will continue to sell through Adaptly.

As Facebook Sponsored Stories and Twitter’s promoted products are taking off, being the middleman between brands and social networks is become quite lucrative and its only sensible that Google would want to own a social ads API tool and/or service.

Optimizing social ads so they reach the right people for the lowest cost is not easy. It requires membership in exclusive API programs and serious engineering work to dynamically alter bids to get the lowest CPMs, CPCs, or Cost Per Actions (such as buying a new Facebook fan).

In exchange for full-managed spend service or self-serve tools, brands typically pay social ads API providers a percentage of their total spend — often around 10% to 20% depending on volume of spend. Otherwise they pay for performance, saying “here’s $1 million, buy me 500,000 Facebook fans”, and the ads provider gets to keep the margin. As brands shift spend from television, print, ad networks, and search to social, these services and software have become a huge business spawning dozens of startups.

Right now, Google largely targets ads based on what users are searching for and what other sites they’ve visited. But it knows that social networks offer rich, accurate ad targeting data, such as the age, gender, and interests of their users. Google’s ads business funds all its other innovations, and if ads are going social, that’s where its going too.

Other big enterprise marketing companies and smaller social Page management companies have seen the writing on the wall too. That’s why there’s been rapid consolidation in the space lately, with Buddy Media buying Brighter Option which prepped it to be acquired by Salesforce, Syncapse buying Clickable, and Adobe purchasing Efficient Frontier this year.

Still there are plenty of potential Ads API acquisition targets for Google:

  • Adaptly is one of the most versatile social ads providers, powering sales on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, and YouTube. It’s raised $13.2 million so it’s certainly not too big to buy.
  • TBG Digital is a top players in Facebook ads, and we’ve learned it recently turned down an acquisition bid because buyer wouldn’t pay enough. With Google’s deep pockets, it could surely get the deal signed if it wanted to.
  • Nanigans has grown into a Facebook Ads API powerhouse as well, possibly the largest, expanding from its original focus on game developers to serve premier brands like American Express and T-Mobile. Today it revealed to me that it manages nine-figures of Facebook Ad spend annually and has been serving an average of over two billion impressions per day this last month. It’s only raised $3 million so it could be an easy pick-up for Google.
  • Optim.al offers Facebook ads expertise but is also creating a deep store of data. Considering Google+ is partly a big social data grab designed to power more relevant ads, Optim.al could mesh well with Google’s objectives.

Wildfire offers tons of value in page management, app development, and analytics, but ad sales is a huge revenue driver. If Google doesn’t buy a social ads company, it shows the Wildfire purchase was really about understanding social marketing and slipping inside Facebook and Twitter’s business models.

But I’d bet Google does buy into social ads. This validates Facebook’s long term revenue plans, and indicate the future of is advertising isn’t about pimping your own products, but showing people their friends already use them.

For more on Google’s acquisition of Wildfire, read: “Google Acquires Wildfire, Will Now Sell Facebook And Twitter Marketing Services

I’ll also be discussing the aggressive M&A around social ads this Friday with Facebook’s VP of ads engineering Greg Badros at TechCrunch’s Facebook Ecosystem CrunchUp in the Bay Area. There’s still a few last tickets available.