The beginning of 2020 has already seen consolidation in the ad-tech space with Tremor acquiring News Corp video supply-side platform (SSP) Unruly for $19 million, but it’s the 114 deals that took place in 2019 that demonstrate a changing industry.
Deals completed last year rose about 72% compared with 2018, according to Results International, a global merger and acquisition and fundraising advisor to the marketing, technology and healthcare sectors.
Nike acquired retail predictive analytics company Celect, McDonald’s acquired Dynamic Yield, and Mastercard acquired SessionM. Walmart continued to build its stack and monetization capabilities through the acquisition of Aspectiva in February, but also Polymorph Lab and parts of ad sales arm Triad via its subsidiary Sam’s Club.
The data from Results International also shows consolidation of DSPs, DMPs and SSPs, as well as revealing that content recommendation engines drove most of the deals.
Among the notable deals, in February video demand-side platform (DSP) Taptica -- acquirer of Tremor’s DSP in 2017 -- merged with RhythmOne, acquirer of Yume in 2017. In August, DMP Cxense was acquired by Piano software in a public-to-private transaction.
In September, Zeta Global, a CRM data vendor turned marketing platform, consolidated distressed DSP and direct marketing platform (DMP) assets from Sizmek in April and IgnitionOne assets. In December, German-based DSP LiquidM was acquired by Smart AdServer, a portfolio company of Cathay Capital.
In the SSP space, Rubicon acquired RTK.IO in October and then merged with Telaria in December for $363 million.
Content recommendation platforms also experienced consolidation when Outbrain acquired Ligatus in February. This was followed by the merger of Outbrain and Taboola, in October.
Amazon acquired Sizmek’s ad server, putting it in a better position to compete with Google for advertiser budgets.
Results International also found that video advertising remains one of the most engaging formats. Together with the continued growth in Connected TV, this led to a number of deals such as LiveRamp’s acquisition of Data Plus Math in June for $150 million, Roku’s acquisition of Dataxu, and Xandr’s acquisition of Clypd.
The research also points to Blackstone’s $750 million acquisition of Vungle, a mobile advertising firm, during the third quarter of 2019. This acquisition highlights the growth on mobile gaming and brands’ eagerness to use it and illustrates private equity’s steady increasing interest in ad tech.
Measurement and analytics are high growth areas to measure ROI and increase brand safety. DoubleVerify’s three acquisitions -- Leiki, Ad-Juster and Zentricks -- is an example, along with private equity firm O3 Industries’ acquisition of fraud protection and contextual targeting firm Peer39, a former division of Sizmek).