Home Investment M&A 2023: Ad Tech Deals Were Muted, But That Could Be A Mark Of Maturity

M&A 2023: Ad Tech Deals Were Muted, But That Could Be A Mark Of Maturity


Ad tech M&A in 2023 can only be described as “weak sauce.”

Although deal activity was up 78% in Q1 quarter over quarter, according to LUMA Partners, that isn’t saying much, because 2022 was very sluggish. Deal activity in the ad tech sector last year was down 38%.

Why so gloomy?

It’s a combination of factors: regulatory uncertainty, a rationalization in valuations and general macroeconomic turbulence.

But there’s also something else going on. The ad tech market is maturing, LUMA Partner Conor McKenna told AdExchanger earlier this year. The ad tech deals that did get done in 2023 reflect a move away from a growth-at-all-costs mentality toward what McKenna referred to as “an era of efficient growth.”

So who got bought in 2023, and who did the buying? Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some of the most notable ad tech M&A activity from this past year (with a few media and agency deals tossed in for good measure).


The year kicked off with data and measurement provider Samba TV selling its media sales business to UK-based programmatic ad-buying platform MiQ as part of a multiyear commercial agreement.

Why? Because offloading its media arm means Samba has more time to focus on alternative TV currency ambitions.

January also saw the acquisition of livestream monetization provider InPlayer by video software platform JW Player and the purchase of EV charging company Volta by Shell USA. Volta’s network of EV chargers come equipped with more than 5,000 screens, which is a perfect place to show ads. (But do those OOH screens count as streaming inventory? Sorta.)

Meanwhile, independent performance marketing firm Tinuiti bought social marketing company Ampush to, well, push more into social.

Honorable mentions: OpenWeb bought publisher tech firm Jeeng for $100 million, and CJ, the affiliate marketing division of Publicis, acquired influencer networking platform Perlu.


AdExchanger Daily

Get our editors’ roundup delivered to your inbox every weekday.


Next up, mobile ad platform Kargo snagged video tech company VideoByte, which helps advertisers create ads for streaming TV. Kargo, like everyone and their mother, wants to penetrate deeper into the CTV market.

Private equity got in on the M&A action, too, with a majority stake by Bridgepoint Development Capital in Equativ (formerly Smart AdServer) at a roughly $370 million valuation.

And Blackstone-backed Simpli.fi, whose main offering is a demand-side platform for local advertisers, acquired contextual and native advertising-focused DSP Bidtellect in the name of reach and scale.

Honorable mentions: Digital marketing agency Power Digital bought boutique marketing consultancy Sproutward. Penske Media Corp. acquired an ownership stake in Vox Media (and then came the layoffs). And Stagwell added digital and engineering agency YML to its network of creative-focused shops.

Comic: I Saw the SignMarch

Moving right along, in-store media platform Mood Media (think in-store digital signage and music) bought digital audio OOH ad network Vibenomics to reach the people that still actually go to stores.

Related, Criteo picked up Brandcrush in its bid to expand retail media into reality. Brandcrush manages physical retail campaigns, including coupon circulars, in-store signs and product sampling.

And SoftBank-backed programmatic ad platform Geniee acquired Zelto (formerly known as AdPushup) for $70 million to add revenue optimization for web publishers to its stack.

Honorable mentions: WPP bought social marketing agency Obviously only days after closing its acquisition of influencer agency Goat.


Deal activity in April was just a trickle.

Mobile ad server and video creative company PadSquad bought content recognition technology from Source Digital to help break into CTV – ’cause who doesn’t want to break into CTV?

Vehicle wrap company Wrapmate completed its strategic majority investment in rideshare advertising startup Wrapify, which pays drivers to wrap their car in ads and helps advertisers measure the results.

Honorable mentions: WPP acquired sonic branding agency Amp. Marketing data platform Stirista acquired life cycle marketing provider Customer Portfolios. Stagwell acquired digital creative agency In the Company of Huskies.

Comic: Unicorn HaircutMay

May was also a relatively quiet month for M&A. Blame it on the weird economy.

Mobile marketing company Affle bought YouAppi, a gaming-focused programmatic mobile app marketing platform, for $45 million. There was also a merger between Kubient (a little-known cloud-based digital ad platform) and Adomni (a little-known digital OOH company).

And AdExchanger got the scoop that advanced TV ad platform Cadent was in the process of acquiring EMX’s supply-side platform technology in a bankruptcy auction.

Honorable mentions: Snowflake acquired Neeva to add generative AI-based search to Data Cloud, and Meta sold Giphy to Shutterstock for a mere $53 million after the acquisition was blocked by the UK’s competition regulator. (Meta originally bought Giphy for $400 million in 2020.)


The Brandtech Group had a busy month with two deals. First, it closed its acquisition of digital agency Jellyfish, followed just a couple of weeks later by the purchase of Pencil, a generative-AI-powered SaaS platform for ad creative.

Meanwhile, cloud-based data platform Claravine bought AI content classification company Netra for an undisclosed sum.

Alternative history honorable mention: Remember the rumor that Viant was kicking the tires on MediaMath?


Comic: Acquired TasteThere was one noteworthy ad tech deal in July.

During its Q2 earnings call, DoubleVerify announced its decision to acquire AI startup Scibids, which analyzes the signals generated by a DSP to automate and optimize programmatic bids across buying platforms.

DoubleVerify CEO Mark Zagorski called the $125 million deal “a huge differentiator for us.”

Honorable mention: After filing for bankruptcy in May, Vice Media was sold to a group of lenders led by Fortress Investment Group, Soros Fund Management and Monroe Capital at a valuation of $350 million. (In 2017, Vice Media was valued at $5.7 billion.)


Late summer was surprisingly active.

Private equity firm Novacap announced plans to acquire advanced TV advertising company Cadent from another private equity firm, Lee Equity Partners. Ecommerce startup MikMak acquired its rival ChannelAdvisor’s shoppable media and brand analytics divisions. And InMobi acquired Quantcast’s consent management platform, Quantcast Choice, with plans to bundle it into its publisher offering.

But the biggest news by far was Infillion’s announcement that it was buying MediaMath’s bankrupt DSP and DMP business for $22 million. That deal price was just 2% of MediaMath’s peak valuation of $1 billion.

In December, Infillion CEO Rob Emrich acknowledged that the MediaMath name comes with a lot of baggage, but expressed confidence that advertisers and partners will judge the company based on its long history and not its slow crash and burn. (Or as Emrich more colorfully put it in an interview with Business Insider: “If MediaMath was Will Smith – he had a whole acting career before he slapped Chris Rock in the face.”)

Honorable (publisher) mentions: ESPN signed a gambling deal with Penn that involved selling sports media group Barstool back to its founder, Dave Portnoy. Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated publisher The Arena Group sold a majority stake to Simplify Inventions.

Comic: Shiny Object SyndromeSeptember

Ad tech dealmaking in September encompassed two of the industry’s current shiny objects: AI and alternative currencies.

Marketing data company Claritas bought AI-driven marketing automation platform ArtsAI, its fourth acquisition since spinning off from Nielsen in 2017.

And iSpot, which has technology to automatically identify when and where ads appear on TV, acquired TV measurement and attribution company 605, bringing iSpot’s US household footprint to $82.7 million.

Honorable mention: Newsletter publishing startup Beehiiv acqui-hired newsletter ad network Swapstack.


Agencies made some big moves in October.

First: PMG’s acquisition of Camelot.

The merger between two independent media and marketing agencies makes a lot of sense: It’s power in numbers. Small independent shops need to get out of their niche to compete. PMG’s roots are in programmatic, performance and digital media, and Camelot is focused on video ad buying and measurement. Its video expertise fills a gap for PMG.

Then – and this was a biggie – Omnicom dropped $835 million to acquire Flywheel Digital, a digital commerce platform that helps enterprise brands optimize their ecommerce marketplace performance across Amazon, Walmart, Target, et al.

And in other news, the UK’s antitrust regulator cleared Microsoft to (finally) complete its acquisition of Activision – minus cloud gaming rights.

Honorable mention: CPG retail platform Crisp bought CPG-focused analytics company Atlas Technology Group to bolster its retail data platform.

Comic: Marie Kondo-ing of ad techNovember

As the leaves fell from the trees, ad intelligence and sales enablement platform MediaRadar acquired Vivvix, Kantar Group’s North American advertising intelligence business. Then, MiQ acquired SaaS compliance platform Grasp to help with media governance and data quality.

And moving over to mobile, app measurement and attribution platform AppsFlyer acquired devtodev, an analytics provider for app and game developers. The deal helps populate AppsFlyer’s newly launched Privacy Cloud Marketplace. AppsFlyer also teased plans about a second acquisition to close before the end of the year.

Honorable mentions: Disney hammered out a roughly $8.6 billion deal with Comcast to buy the remaining stake in Hulu. The private equity arm of Ariel Investments bought multicultural media company My Code as part of an effort to build a portfolio of minority-owned publishers. And Jezebel rides again (!) with Paste Magazine as its new owner weeks after being shut down by G/O Media.


As it promised, AppsFlyer bought a second company less than a month after its devtodev deal. The acquisition of oolo, an AI-powered user acquisition and monetization platform, will also bolster AppsFlyer’s Privacy Cloud Marketplace.

And, lastly, Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan’s clean room startup Samooha was acquired by Snowflake. Although terms of the deal were not disclosed, Snowflake was previously an investor in Samooha, having taken a 25% stake at a $40 million valuation in February.

(Fun fact: Sivaramakrishnan sold the other startup she founded, cross-device graph company Drawbridge, to LinkedIn for roughly $300 million in 2019.) 

Honorable mentions: TikTok acquired Indonesian ecommerce company Tokopedia for $840 million in an attempt to revive TikTok Shop in local markets. (We’ll see how it goes.) And digital ad platform Perion acquired digital out-of-home DSP Hivestack for $100 million, plus an additional $25 million over the next three years based on performance goals.

📺 🚨 But the ink isn’t dry on 2023 just yet – and there’s a big rumor swirling. Paramount is reportedly in talks to merge with Warner Bros. Discovery, which would create an entertainment and news giant. Axios had the scoop.

Must Read

LG Electronics

Alphonso Shareholders Win Their Suit Against LG Electronics Over Corporate Board Drama

After being summarily booted from the board of LG Ads in late 2022, Alphonso’s founding team has won its lawsuit against LG Electronics.

Bye-Bye Sizmek! Amazon Advances Flashtalking And Smartly As Alternatives In Advance Of The Shutdown

According to emails seen by AdExchanger that were sent to Amazon customers this week, Amazon is officially naming integration partners to offload clients of the Sizmek ad suite, now the Amazon Ad Server.

2024 Promises More Premium Inventory – And Bigger Budgets – For In-Game Ads

Given the deprecation of third-party cookies and the reemergence of contextual targeting, 2024 could be a big year for in-game ads – so long as game publishers position themselves as a source of premium inventory.

Privacy! Commerce! Connected TV! Read all about it. Subscribe to AdExchanger Newsletters

AdExchanger’s Top 3 Connected TV Newsletter Issues Of 2023

This was such a busy year in CTV land that we had to launch a dedicated newsletter just to keep up with all the trends, from measurement, currency, targeting and attribution to streaming data, identity, supply-path optimization and new ad formats – just to name a few.

Comic: The Great Data Lakes

Snowflake Acquires Data Clean Room Startup Samooha

Snowflake has acquired Samooha, a startup that develops software to make clean room technology accessible to marketers who aren’t necessarily SQL wizards or data scientists.

Comic: Back To The Drawing Board

Solving For Identity With Privacy In Mind Is ‘The Issue Of Our Industry’s Time’

How would you describe the state of privacy in the ad tech industry? “In one word: fragmented,” says Tony Katsur, CEO of the IAB Tech Lab.