Google loses dMarc radio ad experts

dMarc co-founders leave the company a year after Google acquisition

Google has lost the services of the co-founders and top executives of dMarc Broadcasting, the radio advertising company Google acquired one year ago to push into that market.

Chad Steelberg, dMarc's chairman and chief executive officer, and his brother Ryan Steelberg, dMarc's president, no longer work at Google, a Google spokesman said via e-mail on Friday.

The spokesman declined to answer further questions, so it's not known when was their last day at Google, whether they resigned or were fired and who is in charge of Google's radio ad operation now.

The short and terse way in which Google is dealing with the news of the Steelbergs' departure seems to indicate that tensions and disagreements played a part in the situation, and that the rift wasn't amiable, an analyst said. "It could have been handled differently. This is suggestive of a deeper problem," said Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence.

The Steelbergs founded the company in 2002 and Google acquired it in February of last year, as part of its attempts to diversify from paid search advertising into other forms of advertising.

DMarc's technology links radio stations and advertisers and automates various aspects of the radio ad-selling process in a way that Google has said is very similar to the way it matches ads to the users of its search engine.

The Steelbergs' decision to abandon the company they founded could stem from problems Google may be having in carrying out its plan for radio advertising, Sterling said. "This may set back the effort to some degree if there's a larger problem with executing the strategy," he said.

Moreover, when founders leave their company, it often happens that loyal employees follow them out the door, and if this happens with dMarc, it could further destabilize the operation, Sterling said.

Google paid US$102 million in cash for all outstanding equity interests in dMarc, and agreed to make up to US$1.136 billion in additional payments when and if certain performance goals were met.

Google has been integrating dMarc's technology into its AdWords advertising platform to open a new radio ad distribution channel for Google advertisers. Google recently began testing its radio ad system with some advertisers and radio stations.

"Google is committed to the audio business. We will continue to gather feedback during the Audio Ads beta test and are happy with the progress to date," the Google spokesman wrote. "We remain focused on delivering value to the radio industry as we continue to expand radio station inventory and enhance the product so that it's ready for all advertisers."

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