Mergers and Acquisitions: Ad Tech Predictions For Fall

PredictionsIt’s time to put on the Swami hat and look ahead as the ad tech ecosystem continues to bubble and mergers and acquisitions abound with Fall approaching.

Through the end of the year, sees many possibilities. Let’s Swami-fy, shall we?

Prediction #1

This one’s been bouncing around the ecosystem forEVER… ever since the company received $50 million in funding from Microsoft back in November of 2010.  AppNexus may be Microsoft’s meal ticket into the world of audience buying and it would seem that from this vantage point, anecdotally, efforts are being made to drive the next great ad revenue strategy at Microsoft – and hopefully overcome bureaucracy and political in-fighting.  Direct sales and Microsoft Media Network sales have reigned at MSN, and Hotmail but with recent announced inclusion of non-guaranteed inventory through AppNexus, momentum would seem to be inevitably building. The Microsoft display mantra centers around optimizing yield for the publisher.

The Swami says, “Microsoft Buys AppNexus” before year end.  Probability: 90%, no, make it 91%!

Prediction #2

As has pontificated previously, the acquisition of Admeld by Google is still not approved by the Department of Justice but if they approved DoubleClick, not sure how the DOJ can reject Admeld.  is Google sewing it up in exchange-based display? They are definitely going to be the big player with the most liquidity.  Yahoo!’s Right Media Exchange remains untethered to the content mother ship. Microsoft/AppNexus has a lot of ground to gain but can carve out a solid niche.     A year from now, I could see display becoming a part of the Microsoft/Yahoo! search deal even if this makes Yahoo! Right Media chief’s Ramsey McGrory’s temples throb.  Microsoft could combine their owned and operated inventory into a premium-ish exchange led by Yahoo! and the Redmond giant’s data-rich mail inventory.

Wait wait wait… so what’s the prediction!??  The prediction is about PubMatic!  Go figure!

With Admeld gone, and the other big display players combining over an AppNexus platform, PubMatic remains a juicy plum that would work for one of two companies: Aol or Amazon.    Amazon has its own mega-property as well as the attractive IMDB inventory and some other stuff.  Also, it has its own, huge affiliate marketing business. PubMatic could optimize between the real-time bided advertisers and the current yield (or price floor) that an Amazon affiliate publisher sets for its ads (or Amazon sets for that matter).  It’s phase II of the Amazon affiliate business –  the Amazon ad network!  Or how about using PubMatic’s inventory pool to offer retargeting back to Amazon by one of three groups?: Amazon itself as it looks to drive revenues, advertisers looking to sell its own products on Amazon OR elsewhere;  affiliate network publishers looking to retarget.  Geez, these are great ideas!  I love me! Hey they’ve got the pixel on the affiliate’s page already potentially (with the delivery of an ad unit) –  why not retarget and get jiggy with some audience buying love?

(hey this is a long prediction)

But wait! Aol is also a possibility for PubMatic as they look for an RTB solution on the publisher side.   Aol has north of $400 million in cash as of their last earnings report – and CEO Tim Armstrong isn’t going to sit there and wait for the market to come to him. This guy is rolling the dice.  So, PubMatic FTW!  Or wait.. Amazon buys PubMatic!

The Swami says, “Aol or Amazon Buys PubMatic” before year end.  Probability: 93%

Prediction #3

Is CEO Tim Vanderhook finished rethinking the Specific Media media company model?  Is ValueClick still on the acquisition trail looking to secure a publisher-side RTB solution and inventory pool?  Are both of these companies looking to secure Los Angeles-area ad tech talent?  Yes, yes, yes!  It’s Rubicon Project as the acquisition candidate with their vast inventory of social display ads. This makes particular sense for Specific but don’t underestimate the importance of the acqui-hire (buying a company for its employees) – could be ValueClick or Specific.  Given the Rubicon Project’s capitalization challenges, this could be a deal.

The Swami says, “Specific or ValueClick Buys Rubicon Project” before year end.  Probability: 69%

Prediction #4

CONTEXTWEB (ALL CAPS, BABY!) and Datran Media merge.  Take the Aperture data-driven product and apply it to CONTEXTWEB’s RTB inventory of primarily long-tail publishers and.. data drives media!  The combined entity would likely enjoy a re-brand, too, as their current brands may be looking long in the tooth or teeth on the client-side.

The Swami says, “CONTEXTWEB And Datran Media Merge” before year end.  Probability: 73.4%

Prediction #5

Zach Coelius finally changes his shirt and demand-side platform Triggit gets bought by Adobe!  Adobe Omniture’s near-purchase of Invite Media a year or two ago is consummated in absentia.    Through its Test-and-Target product, Triggit retargets through the exchange, aggregators and publishers (specifically, current Omniture client publishers).  The price is right for Adobe as larger DSPs wouldn’t make sense. Adobe is looking to add the DSP “feature.”  Another possibility here is and the team of ad-tech-man-about-town and CEO Don Epperson, and Frost Prioleau and Paul Harrison who sold Personifi to Collective in 2008.  They’ve got access to the same inventory as Triggit – but do they have the QPS? has no idea but the lean-and-mean DSP is needed by Adobe to fill out its marketing suite/stack.  (Sweet stack? Like it.)

The Swami says, “Adobe Buys Triggit or” before year end.  Probability: 57.8%

Prediction #6

Hey Twitter – when are you going to play in’s audience buying world? You’ve got those tweet buttons/pixels all over hell and back, after all!  Twitter buys the inexpensive (XA has taken next to no cash) social display ad, demand-side platform (my words) and its platform focused on text creative and media buying.  More-better creative tech that enables some sort of auto-optimization on the Twitter platform.  How will work on Twitter exactly????  No idea. These are predictions.   Also, never underestimate the geo-synergy here – both companies are in SF.  If you want to sell your company, it doesn’t hurt to live in the acquirer’s hometown.

The Swami says, “Twitter Buys” before year end.  Probability: 52.4%

Prediction #7

MediaMath decides to go full-stack or build its own marketing stack – however you want to phrase it -and buys ad summos in an all-stock deal for access to the sell-side!  Yes, you can’t get these predictions anywhere else! ad summos CEO Curt Viebranz becomes CEO of MediaMath and MediaMath CEO Joe Zawadzki becomes Chairman of the Board.  Viebranz reprises his role at Tacoda where he continues to propel MediaMath across the finish line either as leader of a successful private company trolling for chocolate-y, digital display ad margin or, post-Depression, Viebranz “rides herd” on the company to an Initial Public Offering as traditional agencies see the new agency model emerge.

The Swami says, “MediaMath Buys ad summos” before year end.  Probability: 43.2%

Prediction #8

Wal-Mart!  (Man, this coffee is good.) Yes, the Bentonville, Arkansas mega-retailer sets its sites on a retargeter as the recent acquisition of Dotomi by ValueClick ($295 million) has caught its eye. Consequently, Wal-Mart’s bottom-of-the-funnel intent data gets a double-shot of retargeting espresso.  From here, the big play is JB Rudelle’s Criteo which has been reportedly “killing it” (that’s good) in Europe and getting good traction here in the U.S. (that’s good too).  Impressive, publicized revenues in the hundreds of millions are hard to avoid. This is Wal-Mart’s biggest, strategic digital move ever. After they buy Criteo for… wait for it… $800 million… expect Wal-Mart to get in the publisher game as owned and operated entertainment channels become ever-more important to the marketer. Everybody is doing everything!

Another possibility here is Wal-Mart buying retargeter TellApart for a price likely in the Dotomi range.   The Wal-Mart acquisition sets off other acquisitions by retailers and marketers looking to have its own in-house buying ad tech.

The Swami says, “Wal-Mart Buys Criteo (maybe TellApart)” before year end.  Probability: 39%

Prediction #9

Oracle finishes integrating Art Technology Group (acquired in November) and decides to “get busy” in display media. goes out on a limb here (irony) and says that Oracle taps DoubleVerify and its ad verification business as the trusted agency partner provides in-roads into data-driven agencies and, by extension, the marketer.  The agency model isn’t going anywhere reasons Oracle – it’s just getting more efficient, more data-driven.  Or maybe… in an about-face, Google buys DoubleVerify? Google loves a good relationship.

The Swami says, “Oracle or Google Buys DoubleVerify” before year end.  Probability: 27%

In Conclusion

I can’t believe you made it this far. will keep you posted about any future, bright ideas.

By John Ebbert

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  1. Woah, way to go bold on a rainy Sunday.

    #2- Aol could buy Pubmatic with the money under the couch on the 5th(?) floor of 770. 100%. Re- Amazon, would instead expect them to pick up a DMP and integrate it into Triggt for more turnkey solutions for advertisers.

    #3- No way Specific or VC could afford Rubicon Project (although one would have to appreciate the irony of them ending up packaged with MySpace). Would be more interesting to see Specific acquire a mobile ad net (then they’ll have display, social, video, and mobile) and build integrated targeting capabilities across all channels.

    #9- What about Nielsen? Would be incredibly cool for Nielsen to pick up an ad verif co if only to match parity with Comscore.

    My prediction (just for fun)- A DSP, any DSP (please) acquires a bid management platform. This would be the ultimate convergence between search & display management and would finally allow advertisers to manage and optimize these channels in an integrated platform. Please!

  2. @Sara are u suggesting Rubicon is more expensive than pubmatic? And pubmatic is 3rd?

  3. Jonah Downes

    few more…
    Amazon to buy DataXu

    Mediamath and Peer39 merge

    Zac to lose the red livery…Never! 🙂

  4. Nicely done!

    I certainly think a few DSPs will acquire some SEM bid management tools to bring the full stack to life.

    • Dark Knight

      Given the size of the Search market, shouldn’t SEM ad tech be looking at acquiring DSPs rather than the other way round?

      Interesting that considering the size of Search vs Display that DSPs would perceivably have a bigger market cap than SEM ad tech

  5. I find prediction #8 particularly interesting, as I believe it is only a matter of time before we see more mega-retailers getting directly involved in ad technology.

    After Wal-Mart, I wonder who will be next?

  6. Awesome ramble through the M&A multi-plex of your mind! Respect.

    Agree there might be more #8 in the mix, but I think the (silent) #10 is the great wild card of our time: how does mobile add/upset this whole apple cart?


  7. Sara Livingston

    Tom V- Definitely, Rubicon has significantly more pubs and as a result more inventory (at least from what we see coming through the DSPs).

    There’s no question though Pubmatic would be a smart little pick-up for AOL (yup, all caps) though.

  8. Matt Barash

    John, Are you trying to be the TMZ of RTB? I’m all for silly cartoons, but I just don’t see how playing Monday morning quarterback in this context benefits any of the parties involved. Anyone can pontificate and fantasize, few can provide substantive analysis which point to realistic outcomes. Just my .02


    • Matt Greitzer

      I think it’s a thought-provoking take on some of the potential mash-ups in our space. The activity on the comments string it seems to support this.

      By the way, John, I like the call-outs on retailers and ad targeting. No one is really talking about this but it’s a big emerging opportunity/development.

  9. John, you forgot a big one.

    Prediction #10. John Ebbert finally accepts one of the many offers that have been lobbed his way and Adexchanger merges with some staid old line publisher (just pick one, they all need the help) to help bring them into the 21st century of trade journalism and social media.

    • I’ll get more specific on Zach’s prediction here. AdExchanger gets acquired by AOL/TechCrunch.

  10. Nice work John, but what about the dark horses?

    I think you’ll see a pickup of two undervalued companies in the space that shouldn’t be overlooked.

    Prediction 1: Lucid Media is poised to sell, with the advantage of being both a DSP and context technology rolled into one. Similar to MediaMath + Peer39, but already ready, already. Lucid has killer context technology and is on a sales roll. They could be picked up by Adobe (sorry Zach) or a blue chip that is looking to make a move in to the space and wants to make sure they have both targeting and brand safety rolled into one buy.

    Prediction 2: LiftDNA is the dark horse on the SSP side, and could go to AOL. They may be in PA, but their ability to integrate into the adserver makes it really attractive for a company like AOL, both supporting their existing sites, and helping further their Adtech adserver business. The technology would give AOL both the up and down stream ability to optimize premium and remnant against each other. They are working with more people than you’d think, have great tech, have taken almost no cash, and could easily bolt on to the AOL platform.

  11. Marco M – agreed, and there are a few tech companies out there who have built full DSP capabilities that are lurking in the wings. The trick for retailers will be who can buy who first, and at what price to make the model work. Retailers have been shifting more and more away from the agency model, taking buys like site retargeting in-house, and the trend will continue.

    Sara – I tend to agree.