Elite SEM Makes Its First Acquisition, OrionCKB

Elite SEM on Wednesday will announce the acquisition of OrionCKB, its first acquisition since the company was founded on search in 2004.

Orion manages more than $200 million in advertising spend annually -- exclusively direct-response -- for brands running campaigns on Facebook and other social channels. The deal strengthens Elite's paid-social offerings, said Zach Morrison, president at Elite SEM.

"We plan to make many more similar announcements in the future," he said.

Scott Briggs, previously Orion CEO, who steps in as Elite's chief strategy officer, said the two companies will work to integrate processes through the first quarter of 2018.

The combination of social and search is not new, Briggs said, but "you're not just seeing brands shift budgets, but grow each together."

The companies plan to work on attribution, which Briggs calls a "dirty word," and a strategy that continues to challenge marketers. He said marketers are still afraid of it because today's processes and technology are not working.

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Morrison agreed that although even Google has been working many years to solve the challenge of attribution, the need remains in the industry for new technology and a greater understanding of how it works.

"It's more than technology," Morrison said. "It's the mindset that must change."

Morrison said Elite will not become the company that develops the technology, but rather the company that changes the processes and the mindset of marketers in the industry. 

Elite, an independent agency, built an expertise in paid search, search engine optimization (SEO), shopping and feed, performance display, CRO, and analytics. Now the company expands on and strengthens its expertise in social. The company's eying growth and building a strategy through organic and acquisitions during 2018 and beyond with help from investment partner Mountaingate Capital.

The combined companies -- which have more than 200 employees -- will manage more than $800 million in estimated media spend by the end of 2017. Morrison expects about 87% growth in managed media year-over-year (YoY).

Projected revenue for 2017 comes in at $45 million with 67% growth in revenue YoY.

The combined of 40 brands reads like a who's who. Elite's clients include Tommy Bahama, Hugo Boss, Barneys, the San Antonio Spurs, Terminix, Eddie Bauer, Theory, the Sak, Melissa & Doug. Orion's clients include M.Gemi, Publishers Clearing House, ThinkGeek, and Thumbtack. Only one brand— Bombas — overlaps both agencies.

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