CMO's top 10 martech stories for the week - 28 July

Our weekly round-up of the latest martech and ad tech news, featuring, Google, Sprinklr, Criteo, SteelHead, Verizon, Yahoo!, Genesys, Zoho and more

Google introduces smart bidding

Artificial intelligence is set to support real-time bidding after Google brought machine learning into its new Smart Building offering.

Tapping some of the same artificial-intelligence technologies that have already appeared in Google Photos and AlphaGo, Smart Bidding is a new capability for conversion-based automated bidding across AdWords and DoubleClick Search to help companies determine their optimal bid for any given campaign or portfolio. It can factor in millions of signals, Google said, and continually refines models of users' conversion performance at different bid levels.

“Smart Bidding's learning capabilities quickly maximise the accuracy of your bidding models to improve how you optimise the long-tail,” Anthony Chavez, Google’s product management director for search ads, wrote in a blog post explaining the new service. “It evaluates patterns in your campaign structure, landing pages, ad text, product information, keyword phrases, and many more [data points] to identify more relevant similarities across bidding items.”

Smart Bidding tailors bids to each auction across Google’s properties and allows buyers to factor in a wide range of contextual signals, including device and location. Focusing on device performance, for instance, advertisers can set separate cost per acquisition (CPA) goals by device. New reporting features also show companies exactly how their bid strategies are performing and flag any issues requiring attention.

Verizon buys Yahoo for US$4.8bn

Ailing Yahoo is selling off its operating business for about US$4.8 billion to Verizon Communications in a cash deal that will reduce the storied tech company to mainly holding its cash, stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan and non-core patents.

For Verizon, the acquisition will help it gain Yahoo’s 1 billion monthly active users, its Internet properties and key applications like search and email, and its advertising systems. Verizon also acquired another Web giant, AOL, for $4.4 billion, last year.

The transaction is expected to be completed by the first quarter of next year, subject to regulatory approvals, and comes at the end of a long drawn out bidding process for the company.

The price Verizon is paying for Yahoo’s internet assets is a small percentage of its market capitalization of over $125 billion during the peak of the dot-com boom, reflecting how badly the company has fallen out of favour.

Read our analysis of the news in full here.

SteelHouse retaliates against Criteo

Following Criteo’s decision to launch legal action in June against ad tech competitor, SteelHouse, for click fraud and misrepresentation of its services, the latter has launched its own scathing rebuttal and counterclaim.

SteelHouse filed its counterclaim against Criteo in the Central District or California Court on 25 July, claiming Criteo had “resorted to gamesmanship and unlawful tactics” in a bid to hide its own artificially inflated click count numbers.

In the lawsuit, SteelHouse said its ad retargeting competitor “miraculously claims its click rate is somehow four times as high as the rest of the industry” and accused Criteo of engaging in unlawful conduct including false advertising and unfair competition. The company also filed a separate document responding to the claims made by Criteo about its practices, and vigorously denied allegations of unlawful or misleading conduct.

“By falsely inflating its click count numbers, Criteo has deceived its own customers, and diverted actual and potential customers from SteelHouse by promising inflated click rates,” the lawsuit alleges. “Criteo has compounded that behaviour by making false, misleading and malicious statements about SteelHouse, directly to its customers, prior to the filing of any lawsuit. These false allegations have not only caused SteelHouse substantial harm by damaging its reputation in the ad tech industry, but have also resulted in loss of actual and potential clients, and loss of revenue.”

In response to the filing on 25 July, Criteo said it will continue to prosecute its claims against SteelHouse.

“SteelHouse’s response, along with its alleged counterclaims, are utterly baseless and nothing more than an attempt by SteelHouse to deflect attention away from its own misconduct,” the latest statement read.

Sprinklr gets fresh cash injection

Social media management platform player, Sprinklr, has raised a whopping US$105 million in its latest funding round, bringing its company valuation up to US$1.8 billion.

The latest cash injection brings total funding raised to date to $239m, and was led by Singapore-based investment firm, Temasek, making it the first major round of investment from the Asia-Pacific region.

Spinklr CEO, Ragy Thomas, said the business had a small foothold in Asia thanks to its joint venture with Spinklr Japan KK, but the fresh funds would help it expand its presence further, including active expansion into China.

The vendor is also planning to extend its focus from social media listening and publishing and is launching a beta version of a new media planning tools over the next months.

Font typsetting giant acquires social media startup

Monotype, a US-based font producer that specialises in typeface design and typesetting, has taken its first steps into handling social media content and acquired Olapic for US$130 million.

Olapic is a US startup focused on helping brands find and curate relevant user-generated content, such as photos and videos, on social media channels to employ in marketing campaigns. It’s been around since 2010 and has raised US$20 million in funding to date.

In contrast, Monotype is more than 130 years old and has born witness to rapid change and innovation in the printing technology space over that time. In a press release, the company said the acquisition of Olapic is a foundational investment to expand upon its brand engagement strategy and gives it access solutions across two critical areas: Marketing and design.

Following the close of the acquisition, which is expected to occur in Q3 2016, Olapic will operate as a division of Monotype.

“Our value has always been predicated on type, technology and expertise, and Olapic strengthens us on all three fronts,” said president and CEO of Monotype, Scott Landers. “Whether an ‘asset’ is type, branded emoji or chat, and now user-generated content, they all serve a similar purpose, which is to elevate a brand’s identity both online and offline.”

Taboola acquires native video advertising company

Native advertising optimisation platform, Taboola, is acquiring ConvertMedia, a native video advertising company, to expand its platform offering.

The company said it will integrate ConvertMedia’s video technology with its data and personalisation engine, which reaches more than one billion people a month, to help publishers deliver relevant and viewable experiences to users at the right time.

ConvertMedia currently has an annual run rate of US$50 million. Details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

“The open Web is divided into two - walled gardens and everything else - and while social companies have seen huge growth in video viewership, it’s time to bring that success to the open Web and to premium publishers all around the world,” said Taboola Founder and CEO, Adam Singolda. “I believe that the future of publishers’ cross-screen monetisation is two-fold: First, content recommendations using image, title and URL, and second, video.

“We are excited to offer publishers the full funnel, leveraging data and personalisation to create experiences that are enjoyable for users and drive revenue growth for publishers.”

Fiksu splits into four parts

Mobile app marketing platform, Fiksu, is being split into four separate companies two month after being acquired by private equity firm, Noosphere, in June.

The four components are: Fiksu DSP, which will focus on real-time programmatic buying; Fiksu Media Group, which will sell mobile marketing campaigns to agencies; Fiksu Networks, which provides mobile marketing as a managed service; and the app marketing focused FreeMyApps. Each will have its own leadership and sales team and function separately.

In a statement, the company said having four distinct companies will help provide clarity to clients and prospects around what exactly Fiksu can offer. They will all still continue to access the same mobile device profile data, which includes 3.6 billion profiles.

“As someone who frequently had to answer the answer the question ‘So what does Fiksu do, exactly?’, I can tell you that it was becoming increasingly hard to answer succinctly without excluding some important aspect of what we do,” said area director of marketing, Jeremy Sacco, in a blog post announcing the news.

Genesys secures private equity investment

Customer experience management vendor, Genesys, has attracted the interest of private equity investment firm, Hellman & Friedman, which plans to take a US$900 million stake in the business.

The company confirmed Hellman & Friedman will acquired a substantial equity stake from existing equity holders in a deal that sees its total value at approximately US$3.8 billion. Majority ownership, however, remains with existing stakeholders including Permira funds, which bought the business out from former owners, Alcatel-Lucent in 2012, plus Technology Crossover Ventures and several other original investors.

Genesys CEO, Paul Segre, said the investment will help accelerate the growth of the business and its Customer Experience Platform. The company has 4700 customers across 120 countries.

“We have rapidly expanded our product portfolio, with a focus on omnichannel customer experience, employee engagement, business optimisation and cloud,” Serge said. “Permira has been a tremendous partner over the past four years, and Hellman & Friedman’s investment in Genesys is further validation of both our strategy and execution. This investment will help accelerate our growth.”

Smaato launches demand platform

Mobile ad tech vendor, Smaato, has expanded its mobile ad monetisation offering with a new solution for demand-side users.

Smaato Demand Platform is based around query per second throttling tools to allow advertisers and demand-side partners to optimise or segment mobile traffic in real time. As well as country-level targeting, inventory can be ramped up based on ad format, device type, connection type and in-app versus mobile Web. Users can also filter out or target specific publishers based on previous campaign performance.

“We carefully considered the pain points of our demand partners and believe that SDX is an important step toward giving our partners control over the traffic they receive to target the premium mobile inventory most relevant to their campaigns,” said CEO and co-founder of Smaato, Ragnar Kruse.

Cross-channel programmatic player, Adelphic, integrated with SDX in late May and said it had seen a 20 per cent increase in month-over-month spending after leveraging the QPS and geographic targeting tools.

Zoho debuts email client for sales

CRM software vendor, Zoho, has launched a new email client designed specifically for sales people.

Zoho SalesInbox uses customer data location in the core CRM platform to help sales team automatically prioritise customer conversations, and provide context for their email conversations. The platform works with Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo! Mail, Zoho Mail and other email hosting services.

The new offering also lets sales people update CRM data in a drag-and-drop way from their inbox, as well as set up reminders and response watch.

“Email and CRM are the two pieces of software that are the most critical for salespeople. Yet, they usually don't work together very well,” said Raju Vegesna, chief evangelist of Zoho. “With Zoho SalesInbox, we're solving that problem and creating a new product category that transforms how salespeople use and interact with email.”

  • With additional reporting by Katherine Noyes and John Ribiero.

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