In this blog post, we'll explore the early days of online advertising through the story of DoubleClick, a major player that shaped the industry as we know it today. So, join us as we dive into the fascinating history and lasting impact of DoubleClick.

Background and Early History

Picture this: it's 1996, the internet is in its infancy, and two entrepreneurs, Kevin O'Connor and Dwight Merriman, have just founded a company called DoubleClick. Their mission? To help businesses reach audiences through online banner ads.

As the internet grew, so did the need for effective advertising solutions, and DoubleClick was there to fill the gap.

In its early days, DoubleClick focused on providing clients with ad-serving technology that allowed them to effectively manage, deliver, and track their banner ads across various websites.

With the number of people using the internet increasing rapidly, businesses were eager to find new ways to reach potential customers. DoubleClick's innovative approach to online advertising attracted the attention of major brands and publishers, setting the stage for the company's meteoric rise.

Pioneering Technologies and Innovations

DoubleClick didn't just ride the wave of the internet boom – they helped shape it.

They introduced the Dynamic Advertising Reporting and Targeting (DART) system, which revolutionised the way ads were targeted and tracked. DART allowed advertisers to serve ads based on user's browsing behaviour and preferences, increasing the likelihood that the ads would resonate with their audience. This technology, combined with DoubleClick's robust reporting tools, enabled advertisers to optimise their campaigns and generate better returns on their ad spend.

You have to understand how revolutionary this was in the advertising space. Before this time people were still using traditional and contextual advertising - techniques that were significantly less effective than targeted ads.

DART relied on cookies to gather user data, enabling personalised advertising that, for better or worse, raised some privacy concerns. While cookies have been widely adopted and are now an integral part of online advertising, their use has sparked ongoing debates about user privacy and data security.

To learn more about cookies and privacy, click here.

Another game-changer was Boomerang, a tool that allowed advertisers to "retarget" users who had previously visited their sites. Retargeting is now a widely used tactic in digital advertising, as it enables businesses to re-engage with potential customers who have shown an interest in their products or services.

Imagine if you went to an online store and put some new shoes in your basket. Then later on a separate website you received an advertisement for those same shoes. This is retargeting trying to get you to come back and finish your purchase of the shoes.

DoubleClick's Impact on the Online Advertising Industry

It wasn’t just DART and Boomerang that impacted advertising, throughout their history they contributed to many other popular techniques.

As DoubleClick grew, they played a significant role in popularising pay-per-click (PPC) and cost-per-impression (CPM) advertising models. These models, which are now standard in the industry, allow advertisers to pay only when their ads are clicked or viewed, making online advertising more cost-effective and results-driven.

DoubleClick's influence extended to ad exchanges, networks, and agencies, shaping the digital advertising ecosystem we know today. Their ad-serving technology continued to pave the way for real-time bidding and the rise of programmatic advertising, further solidifying their position in the market.DoubleClick began acquiring companies left and right to capitalise on the rapid growth they were experiencing.

From purchasing competitors to new tech, these acquisitions propelled them into becoming an industry leader, gaining the attention of major tech corporations…

DoubleClick's influence on the digital advertising landscape persists to this day. But even as online advertising evolved beyond DoubleClick's early years, new challenges around transparency, quality, and fees emerged.

The Evolution of Programmatic Advertising

Building on DoubleClick's early innovations in targeted advertising, the digital marketing world saw the rise of programmatic advertising in the 2000s and 2010s. Powered by real-time bidding, demand-side platforms, and ad exchanges, programmatic advertising automated the process of buying and selling ad inventory. If you want to learn more about what is Programmatic Advertising, read our blog here. (link to programmatic advertising).

While achieving high efficiency and precision, programmatic models enabled issues like lack of transparency into fees and ad placements, rampant bot traffic inflating costs, and disregarded consumer privacy. This opaque and fraud-prone landscape set the stage for the next wave of advertising - one focused on openness.

The Potential of Decentralised Advertising

As blockchain technology enables decentralised, peer-to-peer networks, new models are emerging to address the pain points of traditional programmatic advertising. Decentralised advertising on blockchain has the potential to significantly increase transparency around ad placements, prevent bot fraud, lower fees, and protect user privacy through encryption.

Companies like Alkimi Exchange are developing decentralised exchange protocols to lead advertising into this new paradigm focused on creating measurable value for users, publishers, and brands. Just as DoubleClick pioneered online ads in the 90s, forward-thinking companies are innovating to address advertising's remaining challenges using blockchain.

Find out more about blockchain technology here.

Blog S1E5 - A Deeper Look at Blockchain Technology

Google's Acquisition and DoubleClick's Legacy

In 2007, Google recognised DoubleClick's potential and acquired the company for a cool $3.1 billion.

The acquisition was a strategic move for Google, as it allowed them to bolster their position in the online advertising market and leverage DoubleClick's technology to enhance their own advertising platform.

DoubleClick's technology was integrated into Google's suite of advertising products, leading to the creation of Google Ad Manager, which combined the functionalities of DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) and DoubleClick Ad Exchange (AdX). This consolidation streamlined the ad management process and provided advertisers with a more comprehensive and efficient solution for their digital campaigns.

Today, DoubleClick's innovations and impact continue to be felt in the digital advertising landscape, and its influence on Google's advertising dominance cannot be overstated. The company's pioneering work in ad-serving technology, data-driven targeting, and programmatic advertising has left a lasting legacy that still shapes the industry.

So what are the key takeaways?

DoubleClick’s journey was inspiring, from a simple idea to a massive company, then the purchase from Google, helping Google grow to the powerhouse they are today. It’s worth looking back at some of the key takeaways from their rise to the top.

First, innovation and adaptation are crucial in the fast-paced world of digital advertising. DoubleClick's ability to identify and capitalise on emerging trends and technologies played a significant role in their success. Companies in the digital advertising space must be willing to evolve and embrace new ideas to stay ahead of the competition.

Second, it's essential to address privacy concerns in online advertising – because users will inevitably raise questions. DoubleClick's use of cookies and the subsequent privacy debates they sparked serve as a reminder that businesses must consider the potential implications of their data collection practices and strive to strike a balance between personalisation and privacy.

Finally, strategic acquisitions can be a powerful way to expand a company's reach and capabilities. DoubleClick's growth through acquisitions allowed them to broaden their suite of services, attract new clients, and maintain a competitive edge in a rapidly evolving industry.

DoubleClick is such a fascinating company to look back at because it feels like everything just… worked. They had brilliant ideas and tech at a time when the world was going through its own revolution and they managed to capitalise on it perfectly.


And there you have it – the story of DoubleClick and the early days of online advertising.

As we've seen, DoubleClick's innovations and impact have shaped the industry in profound ways, and their legacy lives on in today's digital advertising landscape.