The Recent Attribution Technology Acquisitions Don't Surprise Us In The Least

On the morning of May 6, 2014, Google announced its intent to acquire Adometry, a leader in the attribution technology space. Later on the same day, AOL announced its intent to acquire Convertro, another top-performing attribution technology vendor. The Adometry acquisition is not surprising, as Google needed to make major investments in its existing attribution offering with some enhanced analytics and insights services, which Adometry can provide. AOL’s acquisition of Convertro was a move to further build out its ad technology stack, hoping to obtain strong attribution algorithm and stellar engineering staff through this acquisition.

Both companies stand to benefit from the acquisition of these small but extremely knowledgeable experts in marketing and media measurement. Two of the biggest benefits for each include:

  • A strong services staff with deep knowledge of all media and marketing data and, more importantly, the expertise in driving actionable insights in a complicated media-buying world.
  • An innovative ability to stitch data sources together — online, offline, and mobile — across the buyer’s journey.

Clearly, the AOL and Google acquisitions are moves to show clients they are serious about measurement and want to help clients uncover complex insights, identify channel and tactic trends, and quantify the buyer’s journey. And this is signaling to the marketing and ad technology spaces that clients are experiencing an extreme deficiency and sophistication in advanced measurement approaches though the existing marketing and ad tech stacks (cough, cough, Adobe? IBM? Oracle?).

But here’s the thing: AOL and Google have an uphill battle ahead if they want to provide robust measurement technology and insights. They expect to provide a clear, unbiased picture of marketing performance to their clients. And they happen to sell digital media as well. Irony?

With these acquisitions, I expect to see more attention in the measurement and insights space. I’m eagerly awaiting the “ME TOO!” move as well, with the very few measurement vendors left in this space.

Forrester clients, please read our in-depth analysis on the Google acquisition of Adometry, and our new report on the AOL acquisition of Convertro, co-authored with Susan Bidel. I'll be interested in hearing your take on the acquisitions!

Comments

Anti-fraud?

Good points - I agree that we should expect to hear a lot more on attribution from the major marketing vendors going forward. But two quick points...

First, while superficially similar, I think these two acquisitions were actually very meaningfully different. The Convertro deal was far larger, obviously - AOL will eventually pay over $100M, and while the exact size of the Adometry deal isn't known, they only raised $8M early in 2013, so it's likely their acquisition was in the low teens at best.

Marketing attribution is easy to evangelize, but hard to sell as a product. Adometry has done a very good job of productizing an approach to statistical attribution modeling, but is still a relatively small business. It is data-intensive though, which is why I found it interesting that Google would emphasize that Adometry technology will be only going into its paid GA Premium product.

Second, I don't think the Adometry deal was only about attribution. Remember, Adometry's roots are actually in online ad anti-fraud detection... which also happens to be in the same field as Google Analytics' last acquisition, Spider.io, in 2011. That was probably as strong an incentive as Adometry's modeling product.

Clearly, attribution is really critical to both AOL and Google - but probably more immediately so for AOL. Both IBM and Adobe have pretty advanced marketing attribution features already baked into their product suites, including statistical modeling like Adometry's, so I don't know that this establishes much leadership in that field.

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