Marin Software Buys Social Retargeting Co. Perfect Audience For $23M

Ad tech company Marin Software, which went public last year, has made its first acquisition: it’s acquired Perfect Audience, a specialist in display and social network retargeting, for $22.8 million, with $5.4 million of that in cash and the rest in common stock. The deal closed officially today.

Marin Software already offers a platform for advertisers to run campaigns across a range of platforms, but its speciality has been largely in search market. What Perfect Audience gives Marin is a much stronger offering in the area of retargeting services specifically for social and display advertising — effectively following users on to sites like Facebook, who have visited sites but not “converted” into buyers, with ads on the social network.

Marin Software’s CMO, Matt Ackley, tells me that while Perfect Audience —  founded in 2012 and with companies like American Apparel, bebe, Eventbrite, New Relic, 99 designs, and Rackspace among its customers — will remain as a separate platform for now it will eventually be integrated into Marin Software’s wider offering.

The move comes at an interesting time in the advertising business. ZenithOptimedia projects that by 2015 revenues from display ads — boosted by ad tech — will overtake that of search.

Marin Software is trying to capitalise on that trend — rather than capitulate to it.

“Obviously search is more mature and has been around for a while and other channels are growing faster right now,” admits Ackley, “but we also think it’s poised to move into what we consider the next phase audience. Audience is the new ‘keyword’.” What does that mean? Well, now it’s no longer just about what words people search on, but who is doing the searching. Indeed, Google’s moves to integrate Google+ sign-ins — the less-known side of the G+ social network that people like to joke about no one using — into searches and across the rest of its products speaks to how it is able to follow people as they move from one place to another, which it then anonymises to use as more informed search marketing.

“We think that compbined with social and display, this is going to reaccelerate search,” Ackley says.

As part of the deal, co-founder and CEO Brad Flora is joining Marin Software, and the company has set aside $2.7 million of equity retention grants to Perfect Audience employees who stay on.