Sovrn’s Acquisition Of VigLink Shows A Potential Non-Ad Tech Future For SSPs

Sovrn’s acquisition of VigLink last week will make 2019 Sovrn’s first year when subscription software services outearn its traditional advertising exchange.

Sovrn began in 2014 as an SSP offering scale and analytics on its aggregated publishing data, growing to be one of the largest ad networks with tens of thousands of blogs and publisher clients.

But the SSP market is becoming efficient and commoditized, said Sovrn CEO Walter Knapp, with increasingly thin margins on ad tech products and pressure to demonstrate broader value to customers.

“Over the past several years we’ve been deliberately putting the building blocks in place to bring more products to our base,” Knapp said.

Sovrn’s SaaS suite includes homegrown products like a marketplace that resells data like emails and device IDs and credit lines for publishers. It also includes tech inherited from acquisitions, like OnScroll in 2016, which lets publishers cycle new ads, and an acqui-hire of the ad blocker mitigation startup Optimal.

VigLink – acquired for an undisclosed price – adds an affiliate linking and commerce business.

Knapp also expects to make another two acquisitions in the next nine months or so after raising $25 million in October explicitly to fund the M&A spree. He doesn’t anticipate purchasing ad tech that buys or sells media directly, even though Sovrn’s growing data and services business is connected to its programmatic advertising.

For instance, VigLink adds links to an article based on the content (like linking to Ticketmaster in music coverage), which compliments Sovrn’s data and analytics service.

“It’s going to circle back to publishers when we’re able to tell a marketer their campaign led to X% higher clicks on product links across the web,” Knapp said. Sovrn could also potentially start packaging audiences based on VigLink data, like recent audiences who clicked to find out more about the new Audi model or a Samsung phone, to sell with data marketplaces like LiveRamp or The Trade Desk.

The ad tech business is still a plurality of Sovrn’s revenue and is more stable and predictable since the demand increasingly comes via major players like Google and Amazon, he said. “But the bulk of the commercial value created by publishers isn’t going to be captured in the form of transactional ad tech.”

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