Brand.net Acquisition To Help Brands Speak Locally Says Valassis CTO Parkinson

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ValassisLast Thursday, media and marketing company Valassis announced the acquisition of online ad network Brand.net. Terms were not announced but the acquisition was believed to be under $50 million. Valassis said in a release that the deal "enhanced" its digital display offering and will become part of the Valassis Audience Network - a "network of online and offline data, state-of-the-art ad serving and targeting technology." Read the release.

AdExchanger spoke to Jim Parkinson, Valassis' Chief Digital & Technology Officer, about the deal. Parkinson joined the company in 2011 after spending 24 years at Sun Microsystems in a variety of leadership roles.

AdExchanger: The release says the reason for acquiring Brand.net is expanding the Valassis Audience Network. Can you  talk a bit about that?

JP: We've had great momentum with our digital initiatives, and it was the right time for us to get a network that we can innovate with, with greater speed, and that of course expands our reach.

When you look at display advertising, it's a critical part of the ecosystem for advertising in the digital space, and it continues to expand to video and mobile devices – and every single TV will have an Internet connection. With 15,000 customers, you get many different requirements, so having more flexibility to do things at a higher speed – such as with our Brand.net acquisition - makes a big difference.

The implementation of display advertising campaigns can be more difficult than, say, putting together a search campaign. How does Valassis overcome that challenge for your huge client base?

I've been in the technology space most of my life, and the technologies that are most successful are the ones that the clients can easily understand. Those technologies focus on what the client objectives are, which is to expand their reach into new consumers, and create an action with those consumers. It's critical with display. With things like programmatic buying, the better your implementation is, the better you're able to migrate their data, your data, and other data sources into the network.

Those of us that are going to be most successful are the ones that are going to provide those options seamlessly to the advertiser.

Does Valassis think in terms of putting together a marketing stack? Is Brand.net a part of that stack – in digital?

For us especially, because we've got such a wide capability, from print all the way through to digital, it gives us a huge advantage, because we not only have the data, but we also have the capability to reach into lots of different places. The Brand.net piece continues to expand it. We're able to get to the places where sometimes digital can't get to.

With the acquisition, what happens to the Brand.net team?

It is a fantastic team of sales and technology people. We're going to let them run somewhat independently, but integrate it from a Valassis client perspective.

What is Valassis doing about Mobile?

I spend a lot of time thinking about two things: number one is mobile, number two is social.  We've done a lot of work already in the mobile space, and in the social space with new applications. We're going to continue that work with the Brand.net acquisition. There are intersections with devices that we see with social and mobile.

How do you think this acquisition affects your target market? Does it expand it at all, or does it provide some focus in certain areas?

I would say both. The good news is, if you look at where Brand.net has sold, historically there's not a lot of overlap, so that gives us some expansion. Then, places where we've sold traditionally, clients were looking for more. It gives us an expansion in both places.

What does this acquisition say to the agency world?

Brand.net brought a richness in agency contacts and agency relationships. While we've had those as well, Brand.net is much deeper in the digital agencies, so what I think will happen is agencies where we probably didn't get as much time [in past] are now going to get a chance to see how we can have a blended media solution, across the requirement set. That's going to be a huge advantage for us.

What is a use case that comes in the next 12 to 18 months because of this acquisition?

[This example] will probably be quicker than 12 to 18 months. We made an acquisition, about two months ago, of a small company named Circle Street. What Circle Street does is enable a big brand to speak locally. So, for example, it gives franchises the ability to access display advertising, which to them has been very hard, because it's complex. The marriage between our Circle Street capability and Brand.net will open up a lot of opportunities in the franchise spaces. That's a perfect example of something that's going to happen very quickly.

Do you think Valassis can solve local display?

If you look at how well we've done in the print market, we've developed the ability to do sub‑zip code targeting, things like that. Valassis is going to be able to take that knowledge, expertise and data, and be able to translate that into our [display] offering.

By John Ebbert

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