Microsoft and WPP to swap advertising assets?

Software maker is reportedly talking to ad firm about swapping the Avenue A/Razorfish interactive advertising agency for some cash and WPP's 24/7 Open AdStream ad-serving tool, according to <i>Advertising Age</i>.

Dawn Kawamoto Former Staff writer, CNET News
Dawn Kawamoto covered enterprise security and financial news relating to technology for CNET News.
Dawn Kawamoto

Microsoft's forays into online ads may be focused on yet another deal, according to a report Monday in Advertising Age.

Microsoft reportedly has restarted talks with ad giant WPP Group to sell its Avenue A/Razorfish agency to the advertising behemoth, but with a new twist, according to the report.

Advertising Age, citing sources familiar with the talks, said discussions now involve an asset swap, as opposed to an outright buy of Microsoft's Avenue A/Razorfish operations:

Microsoft unloads the agency in exchange for a WPP package that includes 24/7's Open AdStream publisher ad-serving tool plus cash. While Avenue A's price would be higher than most agency deals, very few interactive agencies with that kind of scale are available for acquisition.

Microsoft acquired interactive advertising agency Avenue A/Razorfish last year, as part of its $6 billion acquisition of Aquantive. That deal also included Atlas Media Console and Drive Performance Media, which were the core of the acquisition. Atlas provides digital marketing technologies, while Drive Performance Media buys online advertising inventory in bulk and resells it to advertisers based on their target markets.

For WPP, an asset swap would allow the ad giant to shed itself of an ad-serving tool to publishers, a line of business that it apparently is less critical to its main operations, according to Advertising Age.

Such a transaction would not be surprising, given Microsoft has been on the prowl for ways to bolster its search and advertising platform efforts, following the .