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Why Integral Ad Science seeks out acquisitions

Mar 17, 2022
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Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

After more than 20 years in tech, Integral Ad Science CEO Lisa Utzschneider has seen peers resist acquisitions, but that's not her style. Since she joined in 2019, IAS has bought four companies and is still shopping.

Why it matters: "When you're operating in a heavy tech culture, the approach is we're going to build everything. My approach is if there's tech out there that accelerates our speed to market, complements our existing tech, we're gonna go kick the tires and see if we should acquire that company," Utzschneider tells Kerry.

State of play: Facing competition from ad tech and marketing technology startups, IAS seeks companies that complement and differentiate its products.

  • November 2019: ADmantX classifies content based on semantics and sentiment. That tech was used for IAS' Context Control product, released in August 2020, for evaluating digital ad buys based on context. The deal was valued at €16 million ($17.7 million).
  • January 2021: Amino Payments uses blockchain and other ad tech to provide transparency on programmatic ads such as SSPs working through Google Display & Video 360. Deal terms were not disclosed.
  • August 2021: Publica offers an ad platform with programmatic connected TV inventory, expanding IAS from buy-side to sell-side. The deal was worth $220 million, paid for with 75% cash and 25% stock.
  • January 2022: Context analyzes and classifies photo and video content and will be integrated into Context Control. Deal terms were not disclosed.

What's next: Utzschneider says IAS plans to continue investing in its "growth accelerators" of programmatic, verifying brand safety in social platforms and supporting connected TV ads.

  • She says one of IAS' value propositions is its global reach but that there's still opportunities for more international expansion.
  • "We're looking at audio or other areas where consumers are going and marketers want to connect with them," Utzschneider says.
  • Another priority for this year is making sure the integrations of these new acquisitions — Publica and Context — go smoothly.

By the numbers: IAS went public at $18 in June 2021. It reached a 52-week high of $29.68 in November, and it closed at $14 on Wednesday.

  • Publica added a new revenue stream for IAS, contributing $10.7 million in 2021.
  • "If you take the midpoint of our guide and add 8%, that's well north of $30 to $33 million. It's an outstanding business both to the top-line revenue as well as our margins," IAS CFO Joseph Pergola said at the Morgan Stanley TMT conference earlier this month.
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