M&A’16: Data plays, Telco Power, Enterprise Software Vendors, Dentsu

Telcos dream of becoming media companies. AT&T $85Bn acquisition of Time Warner bested Verizon shopping spree.

AT&T splashed a mere $4.8Bn for Yahoo in July to boost up its AOL eclectic publishing empire with its myriad of AdTech platforms. Why are pipe providers so obsessed with content is a bit of a mystery. Leveraging their user’s data to boost advertising yield on their acquired properties, we’re told. Herd mentality I’d say.

Microsoft acquisition strategy? Let’s throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. LinkedIn, acquired for $26Bn in June, is actually a rising star in publishing. And yes, there is first party data as well…

The other deep-pocketed enterprise software vendors continued building up their programmatic stack. Adobe acquired video DSP TubeMogul for $540MM. Oracle gobbled up AddThis in January and Crosswise in April, a lesser-known cross-device mapping vendor.

TapAd, the leading cross-device vendor, was scooped by a small European mobile carrier. No obvious synergy. Independent cross-device vendors have no future, with the like of Facebook and Liveramp pretty much giving away their cross-device graphs.

IBM deserves a special mention for gobbling up 4 digital consultancies & marketing agencies in Q2. Ressource/Ammirati, Ecx.io, Aperto and Bluewolf will be folded into iX, IBM’s in-house agency, with the aim of expanding its footprint beyond IBM core offering.

Media love to talk about Chinese buying premium assets. Yet this is more of a trickle than an onslaught. Some unknown Chinese consortiums bought Mobile SSP Smaato for $148MM in June, Media.net for $900MM in August, and, mysteriously and expensively, AppLovin for $1.42Bn in September.

Rovi, the leading content guide channel, bought TiVo for $1.1Bn in April, mostly for its patents and technological assets. The combined company, called TiVo, hope to become a leader in addressable programmatic TV, possibly the hottest segment in digital advertising going forward.

The Private Equity firm who bought Mediaocean last year also bought Marketo for $1.8Bn in May. I have no idea what they are trying to achieve.

Forensiq, a minor fraud detection vendor rooted in domain spoofing detection, was acquired by Impact Radius in June. Expect a lot more acquisitions in the inane fraud detection space next year, as industry-wide initiatives emerge at last to tackle NHT and viewability standards.

Vector finally put Sizmek out of its misery in August, buying the topsy-turvy mobile AdTech platform for a mere $122MM. Sizmek is a great example of how difficult it is to grow by acquisition in the fast moving AdTech sector.

Last, but not least, Dentsu bought 2 US digital companies: Email marketer Merkel in august for $1.5Bn, then trading desk Accordant one month later.

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