Akamai Breaks Into Advertising, Will Buy Behavioral Targeting Firm

Akamai has taken a big step into digital advertising, reaching a deal to acquire e-commerce retargeting firm Acerno and announcing a new product line, Advertising Decision Solutions.

Akamai said it’s spent two years developing its new ad offering, which combines the company’s existing traffic measurement capabilities with consumer shopping behaviors to help publishers serve more relevant advertising.

While the behavioral targeting space is crowded, Akamai contends its timing is good. “We think this is a great time, as people are more cautious and thoughtful about their online spend,” said Mike Afergan, Akamai’s CTO and senior vice president of Advertising Decision Solutions.

A handful of customers, including IAC, have begun using some of the services. Afergan maintains the solution is ideal for larger campaigns since it doesn’t require pixels, JavaScript, or beacons, which are time-consuming. “[Customers] are able to roll out bigger campaigns in a much quicker way. Conceptually that’s the right way to think about what we do” he said.

This is the first direct advertising offering from Akamai, though it has technically been in the ad space for a number of years. As a distributed computing platform, the company worked with clients including advertisers and publishers to deliver personalized experiences. “We’ve always worked in the advertising industry,” said Afergan.

Acerno’s acquisition likely won’t close until later in the quarter. The deal is subject to closing conditions and the approval of Acerno’s stockholders. Prior to the acquisition close, Acerno is a subsidiary of i-Behavior. The deal is valued at approximately $95 million.

Acerno operates a blind network that includes both individual sites and ad networks. As of April, its data were provided by multi-channel retail and product manufacturer Web properties. It has been open to advertisers since fall 2007.

Acerno employs 45 people, far fewer than Akamai’s approximately 1,500. Acerno’s management team is expected to play a key role in Akamai’s Advertising Decision Solutions offering.

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