Brand Networks, a social marketing firm focused on large retail clients, has acquired rival Optimal Inc. for $35 million. The deal brings together two early movers in Facebook's Preferred Marketing Developer (PMD) program, each adept in its own way at seizing the social opportunity.
In Brand Networks' case, the strategy has been to focus on big retailers and their national and regional marketing needs within Facebook. Its profile within the PMD ecosystem resembles that of Adobe, the other company of size certified in all four badges.
Optimal, meanwhile, has emphasized the data-driven (automated) aspect of Facebook's ad offerings, aggressively leveraging both Facebook Exchange and the Custom Audiences database-matching program. It has also added cross-platform in the past year – winning access to Twitter's Ad API and LinkedIn's Sponsored Updates partner program.
Led by CEO Rob Leathern, Optimal has raised $5.1 million from a group of early investors that includes Right Media's Mike Walrath. He'll be chief product officer at Brand Networks.
Brand Networks recently raised $68 million, but it's not clear how much of that money was used for the Optimal transaction, since the companies did not disclose terms (all cash, cash-stock or all stock) beyond the total deal value.
Unlike many other social ad platforms, including Optimal, Brand Networks is not primarily pushing a SaaS business model. That's because the brands it goes after often demand significant localization of their marketing efforts, requiring training and managed services at the branch level. This is where Optimal's automated ad-buying chops could come in handy.