Measurement giant Nielsen said it has acquired eXelate, a data and technology company that helps digital advertisers better target online advertising.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but people familiar with the matter say the price was approximately $200 million. Exelate was founded in 2007 and has raised $32 million in venture funding from investors including Carmel Ventures, Menlo Ventures and NewSpring Capital.
Nielsen, best known for tracking the viewership of television shows, said the acquisition would help it move into the fast-growing world of online “programmatic” advertising, where ads are bought automatically on digital exchanges, often using big data sets to determine consumers’ buying intent.
Programmatic display ad spending in the U.S. grew 137.1% in 2014, representing $10 billion in total spend or 45% of the U.S. digital display ad market, according to estimates by eMarketer.
Nielsen plans to merge the things it knows about consumers – such as the age, gender and general location of people watching a certain show at a certain time – with the kinds of things eXelate knows, such as whether they’re in the market for a new car.
“We think the combination of Nielsen and eXelate will allow us to better serve the programmatic buying and selling space, in and around particularly video, but all forms of media,” said Steve Hasker, global president of Nielsen.
While programmatic ad-buying at the moment is largely a feature of the online advertising world, Mr. Hasker said he wants Nielsen to be ready if and when it moves into the $70-billion U.S. television advertising market.
“While we are starting in digital video, we think it will – if and when the market is ready – go to a broader television ecosystem,” he added.
Exelate’s business has two main parts: The first is what the company calls a data exchange, or data marketplace, where it accumulates data from around 200 data sources and makes it available to advertisers and advertising technology companies to help them better target their advertising. This data is gathered primarily through “cookies” that eXelate drops on people’s Internet browsers and uses to track their online behaviors.
“We work with online publishers to find purchase intent, such as the fact that someone might be in the market for an airline ticket based on some of their behavior online, or might be interested in a flat screen television based on online behavior that we have seen across the internet,” said Mark Zagorski, CEO of eXelate.
The second part of the business is a data management platform, or DMP, that holds large stores of data and organizes them in ways that can be used for advertisers and online publishers.
The purchase will help connect Nielsen closer to the programmatic ad-buying world, thanks to eXelate’s existing relationships with major advertising technology providers and advertising agencies.