aQuantive's Web Work Wows

There are so many reasons not to like Rule Breakers pick aQuantive (Nasdaq: AQNT  ) :

  • The stock looks expensive, trading for 51 times trailing earnings.
  • With its $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is now a well-funded competitor.
  • Much of the agency's historical growth has come from acquisitions. Not surprisingly, continued growth depends on further dealmaking.

But here's why I love aQuantive: It has an obviously great and growing business in Web development.

Notice that I didn't say, "Because aQuantive is a leader in the gotta-have-it-now, super-mega-ultra-yes-I'll-have-fries-with-that digital advertising market."

That's certainly true, but the firm's legacy is in building Web sites. Now, as the Internet shifts toward "Web 2.0" businesses like Zillow.com and Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Live, aQuantive consultants have never been more useful.

Witness the agency's first-quarter results. Overall, it reported a 55% increase in revenue, with 42% of that attributed to organic growth in the business.

Much of that organic growth came from Digital Marketing Services (DMS), the consulting arm of aQuantive led by interactive marketing agency Avenue A/Razorfish. DMS accounted for 58% of total revenue and experienced 39% organic revenue growth.

When analysts asked him what was driving the gains, CEO Brian McAndrews said that a surprising amount of the growth was skewed toward Web development. In simpler terms: aQuantive's core business has never been more important than it is now.

Of course, advertising matters, too. So does Google. But McAndrews had a point when he said on today's call that some users of DoubleClick's competing offerings are Big Goo rivals. They may not relish the idea of sharing inside information with their bitter foe, which could mean more business for aQuantive instead.

Even if it doesn't, there's a huge economic incentive for Microsoft and others to not allow Google any further dominance of digital marketing. That's why ad server 24/7 Real Media (Nasdaq: TFSM  ) has been the subject of buyout rumors. It's also why Mr. Softy's prospective deal for Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) captured imaginations on the Street.

But, in the end, that's just noise. Here are the facts: aQuantive's Web development business is thriving. So is its ad business. With Google's DoubleClick gambit, very large and well-funded digital-advertising wannabes have a good reason to keep it that way.

Or, to borrow a phrase from Comedy Central's chief snarkinista Stephen Colbert: aQuantive bears, you're on notice.

Acquire a taste of related Foolishness:

aQuantive is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. David Gardner and his team of analysts have unearthed four stocks that have more than doubled in the first two years of this market-beating service. Discover them all with a free 30-day trial subscription.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers, ranked 6,444 out of more than 28,400 in CAPS, is a sucker for growth stocks and a regular contributor to Rule Breakers. Tim owned shares of aQuantive at the time of publication. His portfolio holdings can be found at Tim's Fool profile. His thoughts on growth stocks, Foolishness, and investing in general may be found in his blog. Microsoft is an Inside Value pick. Yahoo! is a Stock Advisor selection. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy still reads the paper each morning.


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