For the last four years, mobile measurement company TUNE has been “fighting with one hand tied behind its back,” said Alex Austin, CEO and co-founder of California-based deep-linking outfit Branch.
In 2014, TUNE lost its Facebook marketing partner badge for allegedly retaining user data for too long.
“But we’re giving TUNE both its arms back – and an Iron Man suit,” Austin told AdExchanger.
On Monday, Branch, which recently gained its Facebook MMP stripes, announced its acquisition of TUNE’s attribution analytics platform and the team of roughly 70 that supports it. Rumor of the deal was first floated by Ad Age late last week.
LUMA Partners advised on the transaction. Austin declined to share terms.
The remainder of TUNE’s business, primarily comprising its HasOffers performance marketing solution, will carry on under the TUNE, Inc. name with around 170 employees and continue to be helmed by TUNE CEO Peter Hamilton, who will stay involved with the now-Branch-owned part of the business.
The acquisition is mutually beneficial, Austin said. TUNE gets to provide its customers with access to Facebook measurement, and Branch, on its way to a $1 billion valuation, gets to shore up its cross-channel measurement with mobile attribution capabilities. HasOffers will also start to partner more closely with Branch.
“Marketers need a platform that spans ad tracking and organic channels, so they can ensure they’re making the right decisions and not making those decisions in a silo,” Austin said. “This acquisition fills in that last missing piece for us.”
Austin and Hamilton shared their plans with AdExchanger.
AdExchanger: What were the main motivators behind the acquisition?
ALEX AUSTIN: On the web, you can visit hundreds of pages during one session and all in one browser, but now that the vast majority of internet access happens via app, the transition away from the browser broke the user experience and broke measurement.
It’s always been our perspective that you can’t have measurement without fixing the user experience, and we’ve invested an insane amount in a tech stack that can build bridges across apps and touchpoints without using legacy technology, like fingerprinting.
We introduced people-based attribution last year, and we have an identity graph that’s a combination of cookies mapped to IDFAs, which gives us a sense of how users interact with a brand across things like Facebook, Twitter, email and user shares. We see TUNE fitting in here by augmenting and supercharging our ability to track and provide robust analytics for the advertising use case.
How challenging is it to remain an independent company in the mobile measurement space right now?
PETER HAMILTON: Measurement has become critically important to just about every business practice, but over time, measurement will continue to become commoditized. Take analytics, for example, which is often included for free with other kinds of services.
AA: The road to independence has to be a fight against commoditization, especially as more platforms either integrate with brands or expose APIs. Assume that two years from now, every Joe App Developer out there will probably be able to get all of the basic tracking they need on their own. Companies that only focus on optimizing super-narrow and niche use cases related to app install tracking could see their entire business evaporate simply based on an iOS or Android update.
It must be satisfying to get Facebook access again.
PH: Customers depend on being able to do measurement with specific partners, and not being able to support them all has been difficult. Now that it’s opening up, we’re over the moon [and ready] to sprint.
How complicated will it be to combine the Branch and TUNE offerings, and what’s your timeline?
PH: We’ll do most of the heavy lifting over the next three to six months to combine the granular reporting that TUNE does with Branch’s capabilities around user experience.
AA: The plan is for the integration to be as seamless as possible from the customer perspective. We’ll do the work with our internal engine, and customers won’t even need to change their SDKs.
What does the future hold for the combined company?
AA: Today, we have 40,000 different apps active on the Branch platform that have created 100 billion deep links. That’s provided a foundation of data that we think is crucial to solving for identity in the long term. Think about it: It’s incredibly annoying to have to keep signing in everywhere you go on a phone, because there is no persistent identity, and it’s even worse when you’re going cross-device.
As the number of devices increases, the user experience will break, not to mention measurement. We think deep-linking is the only thing that can really solve this problem for the industry in the future.