Equity firm Vista to scoop up majority stake in IAS, a major player in programmatic brand safety
The move shows there's significant value to tools and services that protect brands' programmatic placements.
Private equity firm Vista Equity Partners will take a majority stake in advertising software company Integral Ad Science (IAS), the companies announced Tuesday. The transaction is expected to fully close in Q3 2018.
IAS is best known for verification and optimization of programmatic advertising — a niche that has had plenty of opportunities to grow in the wake of increased calls from brands to advertising platforms to provide protections from bad placements and murky metrics.
In January 2017, Procter & Gamble told digital media companies, including Facebook and Google, to either “grow up” or risk losing revenue. In addition to a thorough review of media-agency contracts, the brand demanded industry-standard viewability metrics, fraud protection and third-party verification.
IAS, along with competitors Moat and DoubleVerify, emerged with solutions. In March, IAS launched a tool that helps programmatic advertisers target mobile in-app ads that are brand-safe, free of fraud and have a viewability goal. The tool is now integrated into a number of high-profile DSPs, such as Trade Desk, Google’s DoubleClick Bid Manager, Oath, Viant’s Adelphic, AppNexus and MediaMath.
And just last month, Outbrain announced an integration with IAS to bolster its brand-safety efforts with contextual blocking that recognizes story content.
“We have always recognized the massive potential for digital advertising but also the challenges that undermine its impact,” IAS CEO Scott Knoll told me in an email. “With the support from Vista, we will continue to focus on enhancing our verification capabilities to protect our customers’ assets while applying our expertise and data to help our clients to influence more consumers and grow their businesses around the globe.”
Brian Sheth, Vista co-founder and president, said the following in a press release announcing the move:
We are thrilled to partner with the IAS team to help the company accelerate investments that boost innovation and growth to meet the needs of customers. Brand safety, viewability and ad fraud are serious challenges to marketers and publishers around the globe. We live in a digital world and IAS plays a critical role in enabling brands, agencies, publishers, and platforms to navigate the advertising ecosystem.
IAS was founded in 2009.
“Our goal at IAS was to find an investment partner that shared our vision and commitment to leveraging our expertise and data to provide valuable products and solutions that our customers depend on,” said IAS Executive Chairman Don Epperson. “With Vista’s support, we can continue to scale our business and build solutions that help our clients protect and grow their digital investments.”
IAS investors Accomplice, August Capital and Sapphire Ventures will remain shareholders.
Vista Equity has made several acquisitions in the ad tech and marketing technology arenas, including ad services firm MediaOcean in 2015. In 2016, it acquired Marketo for $1.79 billion, taking the marketing automation platform private.