Home Agencies WPP Sticks With Tech Ownership Strategy As Xaxis Buys Crystal Semantics

WPP Sticks With Tech Ownership Strategy As Xaxis Buys Crystal Semantics

SHARE:

xaxis-crystalWPP Group’s 24/7 Media – which will soon be absorbed into Xaxis – has acquired 12-year-old semantic ad-tech company Crystal Semantics and its 15 employees from previous owner Ad Pepper Media.

London-based Crystal’s technology can be applied a few ways, said Rob Schneider, 24/7 Media’s SVP of corporate strategy and platform development.

First, it offers straightforward contextual analysis by categorizing content according to meaning. That product is licensed to a number of publishers and ad network partners. Second, that same contextual technology can be applied for audience modeling purposes, by identifying content associated with a user’s browsing history. Xaxis aims to focus on this purpose to augment its audience targeting engine. Finally, Crystal has a “brand safety” angle – allowing advertisers to avoid appearing adjacent to objectionable content.

“There have been amazing advancements in the last three years with regard to increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of how digital advertising is bought and sold. One area that has been neglected, to everyone’s chagrin, is the experience of the Web and the value of content,” Schneider said. “We’re excited about getting this proven semantic technology into our core platform to inject context and content classification in a programmatic way at scale.”

The move shows WPP remains bullish on tech ownership, a world view that sets it apart from its holding company brethren who maintain agencies should license rather than possess technology. WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell rejects that idea, as does Xaxis CEO Brian Lesser.

WPP’s ambitions toward developing a technological stack fully emerged in 2006, with the acquisition of 24/7 Real Media, and continued with acquisitions like AdGooroo for its Kantar research division. Just last week Xaxis unveiled plans to absorb 24/7 Media and its technology assets, including a publisher ad server and data-management platform.

Those ambitions have also suffered occasional setbacks, such as when Xaxis stopped using its own demand-side platform (DSP) earlier this year.

Crystal is in the same class as companies like Peer39, a semantic tech provider acquired by DG for $15.5 million in 2012. Crystal’s 15 employees are split about evenly between engineers developing the technology and semantic linguists, Schneider said.

Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed. In addition to its ad network and publisher licensing arrangements, Crystal Semantics is integrated with AppNexus.

AdPepper, from whom Xaxis bought Crystal Semantics, first acquired the contextual vendor in 2006 and has run it as a subsidiary since then, licensing the technology to ad network partners while also maintaining direct ties with some publishers in Europe. Even after the sale to 24/7, the majority of its direct revenues in the short term may come from subsidiaries of Ad Pepper.

In a statement, Ad Pepper said its sale of the unit was in line with its move away from technology ownership.

Must Read

Comic: TFW Disney+ Goes AVOD

Disney Expands Its Audience Graph And Clean Room Tech Beyond The US

Disney expands its audience graph and clean room tech to Latin America, marking the first time it will be available outside the US. The announcement precedes this week’s launch of Disney+ with ads in Latin America.

Advertible Makes Its Case To SSPs For Running Native Channel Extensions

Companies like TripleLift that created the programmatic native category are now in their awkward tween years. Cue Advertible, a “native-as-a-service” programmatic vendor, as put by co-founder and CEO Tom Anderson.

Mozilla acquires Anonym

Mozilla Acquires Anonym, A Privacy Tech Startup Founded By Two Top Former Meta Execs

Two years after leaving Meta to launch their own privacy-focused ad measurement startup in 2022, Graham Mudd and Brad Smallwood have sold their company to Mozilla.

Privacy! Commerce! Connected TV! Read all about it. Subscribe to AdExchanger Newsletters

Nope, We Haven’t Hit Peak Retail Media Yet

The move from in-store to digital shopper marketing continues, as United Airlines, Costco, PayPal, Chase and Expedia make new retail media plays. Plus: what the DSP Madhive saw in advertising sales software company Frequence.

Comic: Ad-ception

The New York Times And Instacart Integrate For Shoppable Recipes

The New York Times and Instacart are partnering for shoppable recipe videos.

Experian Enters The Third-Party Data Onboarding Business

Experian entered the third-party data onboarder market on Tuesday with a new product based on its Tapad acquisition.