Digital marketing attribution is in vogue.
AOL will acquire attribution vendor Convertro for approximately $101 million, the company announced Tuesday afternoon. This comes on the heels of Google's move earlier in the day to snap up competing attribution pure play vendor Adometry for an undisclosed sum.
Customers will have access to Convertro in a couple of ways, including by way of an integration with the AdLearn Open Platform (AOP), Adap.tv or the broader ONE by AOL platform, which is in the beginning stages of roll-out with initial agency partner IPG Mediabrands. It will also be offered still as a standalone solution, according to the company.
"We did extensive research in the market for about nine months and we really dissected this space," remarked Seth Demsey, CTO, AOL Platforms, of AOL's due diligence process to find the right attribution vendor fit. "There were a couple of things that really mattered to us. Obviously, the performance of the model itself and how good are they. We looked at how scalable is the system to new types of online and offline data. And openness, 'How easy is it [to be] operationalized and integrated?'"
This, Demsey said, is core to ONE's stated vision of being an open platform and "something that would be able to execute with on integrations quickly… and begin to see benefit immediately."
Update: Jeff Zwelling, Convertro's cofounder and CEO, said his company's strengths were in technology, product and data, but "where we were lacking was in sales and marketing," adding that Google's new baby Adometry had "30 sales people and we had four," he claimed. "We have 38 engineers and they have nine. … We ended up with 190-plus brand [customers] but we needed enough leverage to get 1,000 brands activated on our platform."
AOL stood out to Convertro for its technology and infrastructure after "multiple suitors" approached the startup," according to Zwelling. "As you know, this is not the first company I've sold to a large company [Zwelling was cofounder of e-signature solution EchoSign, which Adobe Systems acquired] and you don't want it to just be a side business that may or may not survive. AOL was big enough in that it'd have huge impact on us, and it was small enough in that we'd have impact on them."
Convertro has 57 employees, whom will be offered employment at AOL, according to Demsey. Zwelling will also continue on as SVP of Convertro under the auspices of AOL.
"What will really help shift spend [from TV] to digital is coming up with better models than last click to help people have better efficacy in understanding how to spend their digital dollars," Demsey said. "Convertro had a best in class machine-learning modeling system that did this."
Convertro, for its part, along with competing vendors like Visual IQ and Adometry, consistently scored well with independent research firms like Forrester, which described the marketing attribution pure plays as "data-agnostic," according to one analyst. These tools are designed to ingest data and predict optimal conversion paths, and thus, help marketers determine where to appropriate their media spend.
"We will make it easy for AOL's large customers to have single sign on and we will put together opportunities for our shared customers to leverage data coming in from our platform in ways they can act on," Zwelling said. "In the [interim] we will put something together to roll out to all of AOL's customers to give them access to light attribution and [leave it to them to] decide if it's right for them."
As for AOL Platforms' broader strategy, Demsey said they are very much taking a "platform" mentality as opposed to a "one-off consultative approach." Convertro, he said, was in lockstep with AOL's omnichannel strategy around text, display, video, linear television, etc. AOL will announce its Q1 earnings Wednesday at 7 a.m. ET.