LiveRamp has entered a definitive agreement to acquire Data Plus Math, a data-driven TV advertising solutions provider, according to a press release. The cash-and-stock deal, expected to close in LiveRamp's fiscal second quarter, totaled $150 million, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The move looks to wed LiveRamp's identity resolution tools with Data Plus Math's measurement and media planning capabilities, along with bringing on a network of clients across brands, agencies, telecommunications firms and TV networks. Data Plus Math staffs around 20 employees, all of whom will be integrated into the LiveRamp team, per the Journal.
In the press release, a number of industry players, including WPP's GroupM, Horizon Media, A+E Networks and Target's media network Roundel, expressed confidence in the deal's potential to bring more addressability and audience-based guarantees to the TV advertising space. LiveRamp and Data Plus Math previously entered a strategic partnership last year.
Data-driven TV continues to bubble to the top of the conversation as marketers try to translate the same hyper-targeted strategies that have made digital a dominant industry force to traditionally linear channels built on broad, reach-based advertising campaigns. The growth in connected TV (CTV) providers that meld digital features and streaming with larger screens, coupled with the acceleration in cord-cutting, has helped drive this trend.
CTV and streaming advertising solutions that support scale, targeting and analytics have the potential to lure dollars away from traditional TV, which typically attracts large ad buys, suggesting more deals like LiveRamp's acquisition of Data Plus Math could be in the works.
The acquisition also shows LiveRamp searching for a fresh area for growth after a period of uncertainty. As noted in the Journal, the firm was until recently known as Acxiom, but sold off one of its more valuable assets, the data marketing division Acxiom Marketing Solutions, to the agency network IPG for $2.3 billion last year.
Acxiom Marketing Solutions leveraged third-party data to help marketers better target their online ad campaigns, but relied heavily on platforms like Facebook to do so. The unit, like many ad tech firms focused on third-party data, faced an uncertain future after Facebook wound down key partner programs in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and amid the introduction of tougher data privacy laws, such as the EU's GDPR.
LiveRamp reinforced in the press release that its solutions will continue to operate in "a privacy-conscious way." But beyond privacy concerns, the addressable TV landscape remains highly fragmented and lacking industry standardization, even as investments have continued to pour in.
On that front, the Data Plus Math deal received support from OpenAP, an industry consortium that looks to better cohere the addressable TV landscape. OpenAP was formed by Viacom, Fox Networks Group and Time Warner in 2017, later adding NBCUniversal's Comcast. But AT&T acquired Time Warner, rebranded it to WarnerMedia and removed the group from Open AP in April in a move many speculated was focused on AT&T's own ad network, Xandr.
LiveRamp has worked with large industry consortiums before, but around people-based marketing. In 2017, the company joined ad-tech heavyweights AppNexus and MediaMath to form the Advertising ID Consortium, which worked toward creating a single identity standard that would apply across a number of channels, from mobile to addressable TV. MediaMath eventually left the consortium. AT&T acquired AppNexus for $1.6 last summer and also pulled it out of the inititative not long after.