Yahoo’s recent acquisition of mobile analytics firm Flurry has set headlines ablaze over the last few days, but it’s just the latest in a long series of mobile ad sector acquisitions and mergers that have taken pace in the first half of 2014. From buyouts by the big tech players like Microsoft and Apple, to tie-ups between smaller ad tech companies, 2014 will surely be remembered in the tech world as the year the mobile ad industry began to consolidate and mature.
Given that Yahoo’s acquisition is likely to have been the biggest so far this year (over $200 million according to TechCrunch, although the terms weren’t disclosed), now is a good time to take a breather and get an overview of all the deals during the last six months. The big question, of course, is who will be next? With the scale of deals increasing the likes of Millenial Media or Chartboost could be next in line.
Mobile Advertising and Marketing Acquisitions 2014: Who’s Buying Who?
Yahoo’s acquisition of mobile analytics firm Flurry underscored Yahoo’s recent commitment to be a ‘mobile first company’ under the leadership of CEO Marissa Mayer. It’s probably Mayer’s smartest move yet and comes just a couple of months after Yahoo launched its own mobile native ad product. Rumours are the acquisition will enable Yahoo to roll out its mobile ad network across third party apps. Flurry has seen impressive growth since it launched in 2008, from 5,000 apps back then to 542,000 today.
After Microsoft snapped-up Nokia’s devices business, many wondered what we be next for the Finnish company. If its Medio acquisition is anything to go by, then location services will be important. Medio specialises in using predictive analytics to help business acquire users and increase engagement. Nokia’s navigation arm Here says it will use Medio’s technology to create contextual maps and location services to power recommendation.
Twitter has been very active buying up mobile ad companies recently, with MoPub late last year, Namo earlier in June and then most recently TapCommerce – a mobile ad start-up that specialises in mobile ad retargeting. Mobile retargeting is an area that’s seen increasing activity and interest recently, with a number of companies trying to find ways to track users without the benefit of cookies. TapCommerce will likely help Twitter boost its own app install ads and the MoPub network.
Twitter’s first acquisition after picking-up MoPub was Namo Media at the beginning of June. Namo specialises in mobile native ads and we’ve recently seen a wide range of players rolling out their own native platforms – including Twitter/MoPub. Namo has since folded into the MoPub business.
Opera, which is most famous for its web browser, got involved in mobile ad tech a few years ago, with the acquisition of AdMarvel back in 2010 for around $8 million. In June Opera made a slightly bigger move buying AdColony for $75 million. AdColony focuses on mobile video ads and will continue to operate as a subsidiary of Opera Mediaworks. Opera’s acquisition is interesting given that most of the buyouts this year have centered around analytics and native-focused companies.
Israeli media firm Perion was rumoured to be in acquisition talks over former push-ad network Air Push, before announcing that it acquired Grow Mobile for $17 million plus $25 million over the next two years based on performance targets. Grow Mobile focuses on mobile analytics and attribution. Grow will continue to offer its standalone products, but will eventually integrate into a bigger platform being built by Perion.
App Annie’s acquisition of rival app analytics firm Distimo will certainly increase the combined company’s strength in what’s becoming a very competitive sub-sector of the mobile ad market. App analytics are vital for developers, but the service has become somewhat commoditised. Big guns such as Apple and Amazon have recently come in with their own products, pushing the smaller pioneers together.
Microsoft has not had much success in the mobile ad space in the recent past, but it’s not surprising it’s taken another dip with the acquisition of app analytics start-up Capptain in May. Microsoft recently said it wants to attract more start-ups to its Azure cloud hosting service and its acquisition of an analytics company will help – especially now that Amazon Web Services’ has increased its focus on mobile.
Programmatic ad platform PubMatic’s acquisition of mobile ad server Mocean (formally Mojiva) in May is the latest in a series of deals that’s seen ad tech companies picking-up mobile players, such as MediaMath buyout of TactAds, and Integral’s acquisition of Simplytics. PubMatic’s president said the Mocean acquisition will allow the company to stop segregating mobile and strengthen its ability to secure a publisher’s business across mobile and desktop.
Opera has been busy over the last six months acquiring both AdColony and Berlin-based mobile rich media company Apprupt. The Apprupt acquisition will help Opera further build its ad network business powered by its AdMarvel acquisition. With Apprupt being headquartered in Berlin, the deal also gives Opera an increased presence in the fast-growing German market.
Kontagent/PlayHaven launches Upsight
Mobile games are going from strength-to-strength and in December we saw two major middlemen Kontagent and PlayHaven come together. In March the merged entity relaunched as Upsight, giving game developers a one-stop-shop for their game analytics and monetisation needs. With mobile analytics becoming standard providers need to do more to stand out, bundling together monetisation is one way of doing this.
Data management platform Lotame bought mobile targeting company AdMobius back in March. AdMobius describes itself as the first mobile Audience Management Platform and was obviously an appealing buy for Lotame, which is looking to deliver audience relationship management across a variety of platforms for its clients.
Apple acquires Burstly
Burstly started out as a mobile ad server that let developers cross promote and mediate between networks but after its Testflight purchase, it focused on A/B app testing, app analytics and app management. Apple’s acquisition of Burstly was likely therefore a response to Google’s increasing refinement of analytics and beta testing for Android developers. A few months later Apple went on to debut its own analytics platform at WWDC and integrated the Testflight A/B platform into its back-end support
Integral Ad Science acquires Simplytics
Integral Ad Science’s acquisition of Simplytics makes a lot of sense. Integral specialises in bringing transparency to ad serving, while Simplytics is a mobile ad server, allowing Integral to gain a mobile presence and offer a full end-to-end solution for its clients. There’s been a lot of funny business around mobile ads so more transparency is certainly a good thing.
YP’s acquisition of Sense Networks gives the local search company an even stronger foothold in the mobile space (YP made more than $1 billion in revenue last year, making it one of the biggest mobile ad companies). Sense Network has been around since pre-iPhone days and specialises in providing location-based mobile ad targeting, which will no doubt help YP compete with the likes of Yelp and Google.
Although mobile ad companies are being bought up across the board, if there’s one clear trend over the last six months it’s that big companies have been staking their claim in app analytics platforms – Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple (with Testflight) – and analytics companies have been consolidating and strengthening in the face of this competition – App Annie/Distimo/Kontagent/PlayHaven. It will be interesting to see where attentions will focus on next. Mobile RTB companies? Consolidation among smaller ad networks? Big ad networks such as InMobi and Millenial? It’s looking like a long run-up to the new year.