The fast-moving mobile landscape continues to change with the deal announced today, where Science Inc. is acquiring Upsight’s PlayHaven Ad Network. Science Inc. bills itself as “a disruptive media, marketing and brand building company” located in Santa Monica, while Upsight is “a leading enterprise analytics and marketing platform” for mobile apps. The deal involves an undisclosed amount of money, and the PlayHaven Ad Network personnel will remain in San Francisco to form the nucleus of a new San Francisco branch for Science, Inc.
PlayHaven is one of the top mobile game ad networks, with a span of more than 18,000 games, 245 million monthly active users, and more than 5.7 billion monthly sessions. Lauded among brands and advertisers as a transparent ad network with premier game publishers, PlayHaven counts Gaia Online, Phoenix Age (now Kabam) and Glu Games Inc. (creators of the Kim Kardashian: Hollywood game) among its clients. Science will immediately merge Chirp Ads, its mobile marketing unit, into PlayHaven. The combined company, which will take the PlayHaven name, will help mobile-focused businesses and developers acquire and monetize users with ads.
Jason Rapp, Science Inc.
“The PlayHaven Ad Network has a reputation for its high-quality user base and exceptional customer service. Science has a proven track record of building world-class digital marketing firms and is the right team to carry that flag and continue growing the business,” said Andy Yang, CEO of Upsight. “With complete focus on our SaaS business, Upsight will aggressively invest and expand into new verticals and quickly launch new analytics and marketing products that help our customers bridge the gap between insight and action.”
The deal is an interesting one from an industry perspective, showing several trends converging to make this transaction important both for the companies involved and for how it highlights what’s happening in mobile marketing, analytics and advertising. Advertising on mobile platforms is still in its infancy, at least when you look at the relatively small amount of advertising and marketing dollars flowing into mobile platforms relative to the immense number of people (and minutes) engaging with mobile platforms every day.
Mobile developers and publishers are presented with an increasing array of ad networks, analytics, marketing tools and options that can be overwhelming even to experienced marketers. For small developers, many of whom have little to no knowledge of marketing or sales, it’s a vast ocean of uncertainty with dangerous weather and the possibility of monsters, but also the lure of great riches. Getting the monetization correct on mobile title can increase revenue by an order of magnitude or more, but finding that path requires a skilled navigator. Businesses like Upsight and Science are thriving because they offer help in setting a course for mobile products towards greater revenue.
The [a]listdaily spoke with Jason Rapp, managing director at Science Inc., and Josh Williams, chairman and CTO of Upsight, about the deal and what it means for both companies.
“We were looking for a top-quality, fully transparent mobile ad product with a list of the highest-quality publishers, so we were very impressed with the PlayHaven Network,” said Rapp. “We really liked it because they’ve got SDK integration into a high-quality group of publishers, and these publishers rely on them for monetization. We are bullish on the mobile game market and believe that, through our sales capabilities at the Science level and through our product development capabilities we can continue to help the PlayHaven business grow, adding new advertising products, new units, and expanding their publishing network.”
The basic issue confronting mobile advertising is that mismatch between time spent on mobile and ad dollars spent on mobile. Can Science, Inc. find a way to close that gap, and will the PlayHaven Ad Network help to do that “That’s the perfect question, because we look at that trend a lot,” said Rapp. “It’s up to us as product developers to innovate and think about ad units that perform well and that are engaged in by consumers. They need to monetize for publishers and the engagement converts into business needs of the advertiser. That dynamic that we see supports our investment thesis. We’ve seen that same dynamic in the gap between time spent with media and advertising share from the desktop-based consumer Internet versus television and other media, and that gap has narrowed dramatically. The evolution of advertising businesses on new media follows a pattern where the consumer leads the way. That gap will close on mobile, it will close in part because it’s an inefficiency in the market, and it will also close due to product improvements.”
“PlayHaven will continue to operate as its own unit,” said Rapp. “All the team is going over, we’ll start making additions to the team. First and foremost, it’s build that core business and improve on it. Science Inc has a set of resources on the sales side, we call it Science Growth Labs, essentially a sales and marketing organizations that looks across all of the different solutions that Science has created. They look at our YouTube, Pinterest and Vine marketing, and in this case what PlayHaven can offer, and as they talk to brands they can think broadly about solutions for them and potentially bring in more advertisers for the PlayHaven Network.”
“Similarly, as a mobile publisher we have some insights there and can potentially help bring more publishers into the network,” Rapp continued. “And we have a set of companies that are trying to attract consumers, and it’s possible we can bring more business into the PlayHaven Network that way. All that will be nice if we can do it, but when we buy an asset as sizable as PlayHaven our first consideration is that they have the resources to grow and can continue on their path to success.”
For Upsight, the deal had two major strategic drivers behind it. “The primary drivers for us are focus and the other that is also important to us is that we remain neutral in this space,” said Williams. “We wanted to make sure we can help our customers as they deploy ads across any ad network and as they publish ads from any ad network. That will certainly include PlayHaven going forward, as its one of the top networks in this space. It’s really focus and neutrality on our side, and we have more resources now to continue to invest in our stat platform, which is really exciting.”
Josh Williams, Upsight
“Part of the reason developers come to Upsight is we not only help them understand their users, but also centralize some services,” continued Williams. “There are dozens of SDKs that app developers need to instrument and include, dozens of services and APIs they need to figure out how to work together with their mobile business. That’s another problem we help solve for folks. By combining analytics and marketing tools and simplifying how you can work with ad networks, we really help people operate their mobile business much more easily. That will be an important area of continued focus for us after this sale.”
While Science and Upsight are both pleased with the deal, neither company is relaxing. “It’s a complicated market that moves really quickly,” said Williams. “What we find more and more is that customers are demanding more and more sophisticated solutions, and simultaneously demanding solutions that are more centralized, working with fewer providers. That’s why we we want to focus on making our data platform even stronger.”
Williams cited Upsight’s Data Mine tool as a key factor for the company. “We continue to enhance products like Data Mine, which is a really differentiated tool for us, no one else in the analytics or marketing automation space has something like it. You can run a query on all your raw data to understand your user behavior really deeply in a way you just can’t get through reports and charts. It’s the first solution that combines analytics with business intelligence, along with marketing tools and marketing automation capabilities.”