There are plenty of reasons for marketers to hate “virality.” As a concept and a word, it remains rigorously overused, little understood, difficult to achieve, and often translates to a desire to get something for free. And it’s more important than ever to the success of ad campaigns, according to Ben Legg, CEO of Adknowledge.
That’s why the acquisitive performance ad network just bought Giant Media -- a video platform that distributes content for brands, and, per Legg, is nothing less than a viral video master.
“Virality is more than great content, and Giant is very good at knowing when and where to execute [placements] to maximize earned media and social sharing,” Legg said on Monday.
To illustrate, Legg pointed to Giant’s distribution of a video spot for Dollar Shave Club, a Venice, California-based company that delivers grooming products by mail. Since the video was uploaded to YouTube in mid-2012, it has attracted well over 13 million views and nearly 90,000 thumbs-up.
“That would never have happened without Giant Media’s media expertise,” Legg said.
Giant also helped Honda get traction for a spot featuring Matthew Broderick doing his best Ferris Bueller impression, which would later air during the Super Bowl in 2012.
Founded in 2009, Giant has also handled media executions for Johnson & Johnson, 20th Century Fox, American Express, Red Bull and Pepsi.
By definition, virality requires broad distribution, and that’s exactly what Giant will give Adknowledge and its clients, according to Legg. Along with helping clients buy into Facebook’s new video ad units, for instance, Adknowledge can now expand those buys across various video platforms, including “lots of content heavy sites,” he said.
What's more, while Facebook and Twitter are widely considered to be the kings of social, YouTube is arguably a more valuable social channel for brands and publishers -- particularly among younger users. In fact, nearly 75% of U.S. teens say they use YouTube “frequently,” according to a recent survey from The Intelligence Group -- far more than the 60% who claim to “frequently” use Facebook.
Giant’s founder David Segura is expected to stay on, along with the start-up’s roughly 30 employees.
For Adknowledge, Giant Media marks its 12th acquisition to date, and it wasn’t a cheap one. Legg said Giant is worth well over $8 million -- although he declined to say by how much -- and noted that the final acquisition price rests upon future performance and client acquisitions.
Often working in partnership with their agency partners, Adknowledge clients include Audi, Allstate, MGM Resorts International, Range Rover, LG and L’Oreal. The company also works with various ecommerce players, including Netflix and video game sites.
The deal is another in a series of social media plays for Adknowledge.
In late 2011, it bought Facebook ad platform AdParlor for an undisclosed sum. AdParlor, which built its business on Facebook by offering ad tools to social game developers, has since expanded to provide ad services to a broader range of marketers and agencies.
More recently, in August of 2013, Adknowledge picked up SocialWeekend Labs, a start-up that builds and promotes its own Facebook and mobile apps, and helps developers do the same.
As a result of its aggressive acquisition strategy, Adknowledge can now help clients target audiences across ad formats, including social media, display, mobile, apps, email and video. “We like to help larger advertisers solve their more complex problems,” said Legg.
Adknowledge plans to let Giant exist in a “relatively independent” capacity, in Legg’s words, and scale its offerings with the addition of programmatic services.
This year, eMarketer estimates that domestic digital video ad spending will amount to $4.14 billion.
Like digital video, the social-marketing business has never been bigger. This year, advertisers are expected to pump nearly $12 billion into social networks around the world, according to eMarketer. That’s 25% more than marketers spent on social last year.
As a result, ad technology start-ups straddling the worlds of video and social are doing well. Take Zefr, which specializes in content that brands and fans upload to YouTube, and just recently just took $30 million in funding led by Institutional Venture Partners.