The fate of Sizmek’s remaining assets is widely expected to be revealed this week, with Amazon and rival ad-tech companies Adform and Flashtalking among those tipped to swoop in and to pick off what’s left of the ad-tech entity.
Sizmek, which earlier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, had attempted to position itself as an independent alternative to the walled gardens of Facebook and Google.
After earlier offloading its data management and demand-side platforms to Zeta Global, its remaining assets, including contextual targeting business (Peer 39) and buy-side ad server (an asset some deem a credible alternative to Google’s dominant offering) have the vultures circling.
Speculation has been building for weeks over the potential of Amazon bidding on the Sizmek ad server and potentially adding it to its burgeoning ad-tech unit, or Europe-based independent ad-tech company Adform doing likewise to capture U.S. market share.
Numerous New York City-based sources contacted Adweek mentioning the speculation that Amazon may be in the running for the Sizmek ad server, plus separate sources with knowledge of the internal mood there confirming the speculation.
One source speaking on condition of anonymity said senior Sizmek executives have been speaking of “a company beginning with A” as the leading candidate to buy up its ad server, with U.S. staffers interpreting this to mean Amazon.
A separate non-U.S. based source said that confirmation as to the eventual acquirer is expected during the week commencing May 13. Additional sources made note of the potential for a management buy-out of Peer 39. Separately, Bloomberg reports that “Amazon is close to buying Sizmek’s ad-serving technology.”
A spokesperson for Sizmek claimed “we do not comment on market rumor” when contacted for comment on the recent speculation by Adweek and highlighted legal filings indicating that the company has been granted access to cash collateral until May 30, which could potentially extend the sale process until that date.
An Amazon spokesperson similarly responded that it doesn’t “comment on rumors or speculation” while Flashtalking declined the opportunity to comment. Adform could not be reached for comment at the time of writing.
The majority of Sizmek’s remaining staff are uncertain as to who will emerge as the winning bidder, or if the remaining assets will be sold piecemeal or as a packaged entity. Although one source with knowledge of the sell-off indicated it would be the former.
Some sources have expressed doubt as to the advantages such a purchase would pose to Amazon, noting that it has been historically reticent to acquire ad tech, especially since it possesses the resources to build its own ad tech.
Meanwhile, a separate source with knowledge of Sizmek’s internal communications noted that after earlier intimations that Amazon was a potential suitor, leadership “have walked back” such speculation.
Although some would argue that the addition of an ad server to the Amazon stack, which includes a DSP, would make it more on par with Google’s full-stack offering and one that could be incentivized given the retail giant’s much sought-after data insights.
Meanwhile, Adform has historically been critical of the strategy of integrating (i.e. acquiring) third-party ad tech with executives there keen to highlight how its ad stack, which many deemed a competitive offering to Sizmek, is written with a consistent code base. But if an ad server with an established customer base became available at a knockdown price (which is likely in a Chapter 11 sell-off), it could prove a tempting prospect.
Similarly, Flashtalking (another company with a buy-side ad server) is believed to have been interested in purchasing the Sizmek ad server, as it could help expedite its global expansion ambitions.
However, opinion among attendees differed as to how the ad server would fit into the mix.
Ari Paparo, CEO of ad-tech startup Beeswax, noted how “Amazon seems like an odd fit for me” given the complex enterprise-level sales and support needed to maintain and grow an ad-serving business.
“It reminds me a bit of when Facebook bought Atlas [an ad-serving business it later wound down],” he added.
Jay C. MacDonald, chief executive and managing partner of investment bank Digital Capital Advisors, told Adweek that it would make sense for companies to take a look at such prospective assets given that it would incur very little cost.
He also added that any potential acquirer would need to ensure that technology assets and current customer retention rates were satisfactory. “You don’t want to catch a falling knife,” he added.