Q&A: Inside The Mediaocean-Flashtalking Deal, With CEOs Bill Wise And John Nardone

Mediaocean’s acquisition of ad server Flashtalking for $500 million in cash and stock shows the company is running hard after CTV, CEO Bill Wise tells AdExchanger.

“CTV is the fastest growing part of both the Flashtalking and Mediaocean businesses so the solutions for personalized creative, verification, and analytics will bring tremendous synergy,” Wise said, speaking with AdExchanger on Tuesday.

But the deal is not only about CTV.

“Taking Flashtalking’s dynamic creative optimization into the closed ecosystems that Mediaocean pipes into from the legacy 4C solution will be a big win,” he added, referring to the company’s $200 million acquisition of 4C one year ago. “Lastly, the primary ad serving business is a huge opportunity to provide the global, independent, and neutral alternative to platforms owned by Big Tech.”

AdExchanger spoke to Wise, along with Flashtalking CEO John Nardone, about the deal’s rationale and what comes next.

AdExchanger: How did the deal come about? Was Mediaocean looking at other companies?

BILL WISE: We’ve been partners for many, many years. The Mediaocean integration is the single largest Flashtalking has as a company.

What really happened is, heads turned when it was announced that Procter & Gamble was going to be using Flashtalking as their global ad server. And at the same time, all the legacy ad servers that kind of control the market found themselves under the hoods of Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Our mission has always been to be the independent and neutral operating system whereas Flashtalking is the independent and neutral source of truth. It was just meant for these companies to be together.

Why is it important to remain an independent platform?

JOHN NARDONE: Advertisers need to have a party that they can trust. The big tech companies have become so powerful.

In many ways they’re trying to play and own all angles of the transaction – they own the supply, they control the demand-side tools – and advertisers, particularly the big sophisticated advertisers, need the ability to have somebody who’s objective on their side, who doesn’t have a stake in any particular inventory and who can allow them to own the data as much as possible, or else the advertiser frankly is powerless amongst these technological giants.

The advertisers need somebody who’s independent working on their behalf, but importantly they also need somebody with the scale and weight to be a counterbalance for them in this ecosystem.

Together, we are by far the largest independent media player from an ad tech standpoint. We have objectivity in terms of not being owned by any media companies. We have scope in terms of seeing across digital, open web, walled gardens, television and traditional.

For other brand partners, would there now be a preference for Flashtalking with the acquisition? What do you say to a client concerned about the neutrality aspect now? Does this affect the independence of Flasthalking or Mediaocean?

WISE: No, we’re both neutral and independent. We’re not tied to any supply, and we also don’t do decisioning for the buy side – we don’t own a DSP.

NARDONE: We both also embrace the ecosystem broadly. Flashtalking has API integrations into direct competitors. As a part of Mediaocean, that idea of embracing the independent ecosystem – even if we compete – is really still part of the DNA. Flashtalking has its own verification platform, but we still integrate with DoubleVerify and Moat.

That said, there’s things that you can do when you own the connections when it’s all one company that creates new advantages … we’re super committed to make our own properties work together seamlessly.

Can we expect a sale or IPO of Mediaocean in the coming months?

WISE: We’re going to have a lot of options. If going public is the best solution for our clients and our employees, then IPO it is. If we decide that maybe we’ll sell a piece of the company to a new private equity firm – if that’s the best for our clients, our products and our employees – we’re going to keep the lines open.

How well do Flashtalking’s products pair with Mediaocean’s stack and 4C? Will Flashtalking operate independently?

WISE: No, there’s too much synergy for it to remain independent. We’re going to integrate our products and go to market.

Flashtalking is the leader in dynamic creative optimization. They have done that for the open web. When you think about our assets that we acquired with 4C, they have a workflow into the closed ecosystems of the walled gardens. A major marketer will now be able to use dynamic creative in both the open web and the walled gardens. That’s another immediate win for our combined customer base.

NARDONE: We’ve just launched our dynamic creative capabilities into Facebook and YouTube. And now here we are with the opportunity to connect … the 4C acquisition and quickly extend that into TikTok, LinkedIn, and all the other closed ecosystem platforms. We’re moving very aggressively to extend that creative capability.

Are you going to continue to invest in the ad server? Is that still an important part of the marketplace?

NARDONE: It’s more important than ever. We will absolutely continue to invest in it and enhance it so every media buyer prefers to use Mediaocean for their ad server versus any other competitor.

Do you see upsell potential with Mediaocean’s existing customers?  

WISE: 100%

What other acquisitions do you have planned?

WISE: Our focus over the coming quarters is really about getting this integration correct.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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