From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:
Ever since it bought the display-ad serving system DoubleClick in 2007, Google has been steadily buying up more pieces of the online ad-buying process beyond its core search ads. But it has had one huge hole: social ads.
With the rise of advertising on Facebook and Twitter, Google has been left completely out of the picture when it comes to offering marketers a way to get in front of people when they’re on social networks and use data on what they’re doing there to improve the relevance of its ads. Today, it started to remedy that situation with the acquisition of Wildfire Interactive, which brands such as Virgin and Gilt Groupe manage their social-media marketing, from placing ads to managing fan pages.
I’m checking to see what the undisclosed purchase price was, though AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka says his sources tell him it was around $250 million. It’s not yet certain whether Wildfire, which reportedly was also courted by Facebook itself, will get Google deeply into the social ad game, since fan pages, promotions, and messaging, not ads, were the main focus for the company.
But Google now will get access to lots of data on user behavior on social sites, providing an even broader view of the interaction between users and brands than it’s already getting via its Google+ social network and, of course, its YouTube video service. …