AOL Bulks Up Ad.com By Acquiring Retargeter Buysight

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AOL has been promising a bigger effort on the programmatic side of the business all year and the company is ending 2012 with an acquisition that's intended to both reflect and build on that focus. The company being acquired is Buysight, a retargeting and retail lead gen specialist. The four-year-old company will be folded into the Advertising.com Group led by Ned Brody.

"Our acquisition of Buysight is the perfect complement to our powerful suite of offerings for advertisers, agencies and publishers seeking to maximize their brands online," said Brody, the CEO of the Advertising.com Group, in a statement. He cited Buysight's "Dynamic Creative Optimization" and machine learning tools as capabilities that will complement Ad.com's demand side platform, AdLearn. Read the release.

Terms of the deal weren't released. It's also not clear what will become of the Sunnyvale, CA.-based Buysight's executive team, who include CEO Armin Ebrahimi. A Yahoo veteran since 1998, Ebrahimi held a number of posts at the portal, including SVP of Platform Engineering. He left the company in 2008, ultimately bringing a number of ex-Yahoo colleagues with him, including Jeff Weitzman, who was Buysight's CMO, and Phu Hoang, who was an EVP, overseeing the development of all of Yahoo's consumer and advertising products worldwide.

AOL had been on an acquisition tear up until this past year. Buysight will be joining other ad tools under the Ad.com umbrella, such as the ad serving unit Adtech, the Project Devil-producer Pictela, and the two video-facing businesses, The AOL On Network and goviral.

Given AOL's current strength in driving third party network revenues -- as opposed to the direct sales side on its owned-and-operated sites -- an acquisition that plays to its growth certainly makes sense. In an interview, with Brody last week, he told AdExchanger that the performance side of the business shouldn't be looked on as the commoditized, remnant driver in comparison to the guaranteed direct sales side, which is viewed as offering "premium" inventory.

"Early adopters of programmatic were clearly performance advertisers. I think that is the stigma that is associated with programmatic buying," he said. "The move to a premium format and other models in programmatic has just begun.  One of the reasons it’s taken so long is that, because of the structure of the industry, innovation has happened at a micro- rather than a macro level."

Having a dedicated and defined retargeting offering is meant to fill in some of the gaps as AOL and others work toward making good on the promise of premium programmatic. In the meantime, Brody also noted that AOL is continuing to work on delivering its own supply side platform to compete directly against The Rubicon Project, PubMatic, and Google's AdMeld. While he said the work was going 0n in-house, there has been a great deal of speculation that Yahoo might buy one of the remaining independent players in that space. So far, things have been quiet on that front. It's eminently reasonable that AOL may be having a look at the two non-aligned SSPs before the books on 2012 are closed for good.

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