The acquisition caps off a tumultuous few years for Turn, which has aimed to right itself after trying and failing to migrate to a SaaS model and also to focus on brand-direct relationships. The latter decision alienated many of Turn’s key agency partners and provided inroads for competing buying platforms like The Trade Desk, which went public last year.
But unlike The Trade Desk, Turn wasn’t in a position where it could comfortably go public. Unfortunately, VC funds are also harder to come by these days, especially for older ad tech companies like Turn that – as one source pointed out – had “over-capitalized.” (Turn has raised $152.5 million since 2005.)
Rumors that Singtel was sniffing around Turn go back for months, and sources indicate that Singtel had been looking to buy a DSP for at least a year. DataXu was a possible acquisition target, but the DSP passed on the opportunity.
In many ways, Singtel offers an excellent opportunity for Turn to get good value out of a strategic exit. While marketing clouds like Salesforce, Oracle, and IBM were once thought of as potential buying platform acquirers, they have, with the exception of Adobe, declined to do so, as they’re reluctant to get into the media buying business.
“I can’t understand their reluctance,” Falck said. “I’ve said several times that Adobe’s move to buy TubeMogul is obvious, and I don’t know why the big guys are asleep at the wheel.”
And while various private equity firms have accrued ad tech, they’re not known for giving the moon and the stars.
But over the last two years, telcos have become the new ad tech strategics. Verizon’s purchases of AOL and Yahoo are the most high-profile examples. There’s also Norwegian telco Telenor buying cross-device company Tapad and Australian telco Telstra snapping up video platform Ooyala.
Singtel seems to have a plan. It first created its global ad business with Amobee, then integrated Adconion to get scale in North America and Australia, and Kontera provided insights into the social sphere. It rounds out that collection of technologies with Turn.
“The intention is to offer an end-to-end stack,” said Perell.
With Turn off the market, the private, independent DSPs left are MediaMath, DataXu and AdForm.