Taboola Set To IPO Via SPAC; Digital Pubs Eye Their Own SPAC Exits

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SPAC Bandwagon

Content recommendation engine Taboola became the latest tech company to exist via SPAC when it announced plans to go public on Monday by merging with special purpose acquisition company ION Acquisition Corp, per Business Insider. The deal, which will value Taboola at $2.6 billion, is expected to bring in $545 million in cash for the company. Taboola is best known for placing its “content you may like” advertising widget at the bottom of articles and homepages on publisher sites, including Bloomberg, NBC and Insider. Taboola joins a ballooning list of companies using SPACs as a vehicle to go public in recent months. “When you're public, you have the currency to have great conversations with good companies about a value exchange,” Taboola CEO Adam Singolda said. Taboola’s IPO news comes about five months after the failure of its merger with rival content rec engine Outbrain.

Exit Here

Speaking of SPACs … they’re going boom. Bustle Digital Group, Vice Media, Vox Media, Group Nine and Buzzfeed have all recently been involved in talks about either IPOing via a SPAC or consolidating and then going public, CNBC reports. Group Nine has taken things a step further by actually launching its own SPAC to facilitate the process of digital media companies going public. SPACs have given digital publishers a surprising lifeline that didn’t exist a year ago and could finally provide them with a much-needed exit ramp financed by a sudden burst of blank-check companies backed by individuals, private equity firms and long-term strategic investors looking for a way to monetize their investments. But there will also likely be some consolidation in the coming months before Bustle, Vice, Vox, Group Nine or Buzzfeed go to their SPAC in the sky, according to Bryan Goldberg, Bustle’s CEO. Goldberg says he’s in conversations with several SPACs. “Of the five of us, I wouldn’t be surprised if five turns into three,” Goldberg said. “These companies do merge well. They capture a lot of synergy on cost and revenue when they merge.”

Cookie Crumbs

German software company eyeo, which owns Adblock Plus and created the Acceptable Ads whitelist program, is launching a privacy tool called Crumbs that aims to strike the near-mythical balance between giving users more control over their online identity while still allowing the data-driven programmatic ad-serving engine to keep on chugging. Read the blog post. Crumbs will first be distributed as a browser extension in beta for Chrome and Firefox and as part of eyeo’s own Adblock browser for Android in the next few weeks. The tool moves data processing to a user’s device and gives people the ability to modify the data that can be shared about them with third parties. But will this type of product still be as necessary after Google goes through with removing third-party cookies from Chrome? Well, there’s at least a year until that happens and “a year is a long time to be tracked,” Rotem Dar, eyeo’s director of media operations, told AdExchanger. Also, third-party cookies are just one way to track users. But their forthcoming phaseout should be a rallying cry for the industry. “We hope to inspire it with a fresh point of view that will not only provide addressability, but also gain all-important user trust,” Dar said.

But Wait, There’s More!

Publishers welcome the rise in Black History Month-related RFPs. [Digiday]

Anheuser-Busch said it won’t devote a Super Bowl commercial to its flagship Budweiser beer brand this year for the first time since 1983, pledging instead to redirect that spend to marketing campaigns promoting COVID-19 vaccination. [WSJ

Coca-Cola and Pepsi won’t be advertising their namesake sodas during the Super Bowl, but for a different reason than Anheuser-Busch. [CNBC]

The WWE Network is heading to Peacock as NBCU looks to bulk up streaming subscriptions. [Adweek]

Google’s ad tech rivals look back at how their “radical” idea to double down on header bidding in order to beat Google became a focal point for the Texas-led antitrust investigation. [AdAge]

Chinese TikTok rival Kuaishou aims to raise $5.4 billion in what could be the biggest tech IPO since Uber. [Business Insider]

You’re Hired!

NBCUniversal is shaking up its ad sales department as part of a new reorg that includes tapping Josh Feldman as the first-ever global CMO for its advertising and partnerships group. [CampaignUS]

Merkle has appointed Liz Rutgersson as its chief media officer. [release]

Mobilewalla expands its sales org with Jim Mahoney as VP of sales for CPG in North America and Alicia DiStefano as VP of sales. [blog post]

Dstillery taps Lee Westerfield for the CFO role. [release]

Coaching platform BetterUp taps Cindy Goodrich as its new CMO. [release]

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