Acquisition: Opera Buys AdColony for $350 Million
This raging success attracted the attention of many larger companies in the ad tech space, which was undergoing consolidation at the time. (Though, when is it not?)
Ironically, it was a browser company that ended up buying AdColony, the Norwegian maker of web-browsing software Opera. The total purchase price was $350 million – $75M in cash plus earn-out payments of up to $275M. As a result, most of AdColony’s senior leadership stayed on to continue ensuring the success of the mobile video ad network, which was rebranded and folded into a larger Opera Mediaworks adtech pool with other advertising-focused Opera acquisitions.
The March into Programmatic:
The Future of How Media is Bought & Sold
The years that followed marked growth in areas that were of the highest demand in ad tech: programmatic and creativity. In 2015, programmatic was the “it” word as brands and agencies looked to buy audiences with advanced automation and real-time bidding options.
Projections put the $14.2 billion global programmatic spend of 2015 as doubling or even tripling within a few years. Marketers noted that it was really “the third inning of programmatic,” and they were right. Currently (2020) programmatic is at $79 billion and accounts for 85% of digital display ad dollars! The bet that AdColony hedged to commit fully to programmatic was the rightone to make. Today, programmatic accounts for 65% of the business, with a team of dozens of talented programmatic professionals.
Back Under the AdColony Name
At the same time, the mobile ad industry was also experiencing a renaissance of art, so to speak. With the influx of new ad formats that leveraged smartphone’s native features, such as haptic effects, creative studios had a field day coming up with new ways to engage users (e.g.,shaking the phone to simulate making a Stoli martini) and, in turn, win awards.
Celebrating One Decade
of Mobile Ad Excellence
Today we continue to celebrate a decade of mobile ad excellence! When we left off AdColony had just been acquired by Opera...
The best part was that upon launch of the ad network to the public, Jirbo was already using the ad network on more than 200 of its own internally developed apps. These were apps that they owned and cared about, with a user base that they wanted to retain. As such, their top prioritywas maintaining an enjoyable user experience, and making sure that they could monetize those apps without disrupting users.
And so “AdColony” was born, with gaming and entertainment industry veteran Will Kassoy joining as CEO. Will’s background in building the brands of some of the biggest franchises ininteractive entertainment (Call of Duty, Guitar Hero, Marvel and Tony Hawk) for ActivisionBlizzard, plus his previous roles at The Walt Disney Company and Capitol Records/EMI, made him a strong leader for a mobile game development company that was quickly moving into the mainstream brand and entertainment world.
Why the exponential growth? By 2012 smartphone technology had caught on and was accelerating, and the mobile advertising industry was moving just as fast. Users were spending more time playing games and on social media apps, and the browser was becoming an afterthought. (By 2015, 88% of time was spent in-app.)
Developers moved past the dingy old banner ad and started to incorporate new types of ads into their apps, such as interstitials, overlays, native and video. All of these had higher engagement rates with users and could be integrated seamlessly into the app experience.
AdColony had the mobile video technology that app publishers needed: Instant-Play™ HD video, which provided crystal clear, buffer-free video playback in apps.
Another key component of the company’s appeal was the move into interactivity. In 2013 they introduced dynamic end cards, which provide viewers with a number of immersive, engaging post-video experiences. Consumers could swipe, tap, watch, purchase and otherwise interact more fully with these end cards, and marketers enjoyed having more efficient KPIs to track.
In 2013 AdColony also hit an important milestone: 1 billion video views across the platform. The mobile ad network was truly growing up...
In 2016 alone, Opera Mediaworks won more than 40 awards for its creative work across the globe. One example of creative innovation during this period was an ad for Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales that took users on a virtual treasure hunt. Engagement rates were 46X higher than competitor’s benchmarks, 3X higher than Moat industry benchmarks for viewable completion rates, and 2X higher than viewability rates.
By that time (2017), however, the awards it was winning were back under the name of AdColony. Opera’s browser business had been acquired by a Chinese consortium of companies, and as part of the deal, they retained the Opera name and brand.
The remaining holding company changed its name to Otello, and the mobile ad division (brand, performance and publishing businesses) needed a new name. AdColony was the obvious choice, due to the positive reputation it had gained in the early years and its strong connection to the community of mobile gaming developers.
The new Aurora™ video suite allowed for a “choose your own experience” where consumers could touch, tap, tilt or swipe a running video to truly affect what happens on screen. It also tapped into powerful graphic technologies of WebGL to give marketers graphic capabilities usually only possible in professional CGI and gaming design, such as custom particle effects, textures, lighting and a physics engine that result in a more realistic and life-like experience for the viewer.
This level of interactivity and graphical effects led to Aurora Playables, in which users could play a mini-version of the game before deciding to download it.
The new ad formats broadened and deepened AdColony’s appeal to brands and agencies as well as performance advertisers in the gaming space, further boosting its reputation.
At the same time, the company made several moves to expand further across the globe, opening up markets in domestic China – the world’s largest smartphone market and leader in app store revenue, as well as Australia & New Zealand.
Over the next few years, AdColony would firmly establish itself as leader in the fight against ad fraud by successfully working with forward-thinking organizations and achieving certifications with even the most stringent criteria:
● In April 2017, it was granted the coveted Certified Against Fraud certification
by the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG). AdColony continued to
receive the TAG certificate every year, and is now on the third year straight.
● In 2018, AdColony joined the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA) as an Associate Member.
● In 2019, it chose Pixelate as its partner in prevention of digital ad fraud, for an
additional layer of protection, transparency and measurement in mobile app environments.
● Also in 2019, it joined the Advertising ID Consortium as part of its ongoing effort toward
better targeting and campaign performance for its partners. Using a common ID also reduces
data loss in addressable environments.
● AdColony’s latest full SDK update (SDK 4) includes the IAB’s Open Measurement standard to
further increase transparency with advertisers.
So in 2019, as a way to “put our money where our mouth is,” the company launched the $5 million Advanced Monetization Program (AMP) – offering publishers in its marketplace 100% revenue share for 90 days, a 15% user acquisition credit, and up to 10% bonus on first position waterfall deals to those who participated.
Additionally, that year in the SDK update, it added the IAB smartphone banner, medium rectangle (MREC), skyscraper, and leaderboard display options, so that mobile app developers would have access to a full suite of monetization options.
And, in 2020, the company opened its very first AI Hub as a way to build better monetization products for developers that use its SDK and to accelerate innovation of advertising technology for its User Acquisition clients. The Poland-based engineering team, led by two industry veterans in UA intelligence, data science and gaming, is laser-focused on pushing forward AI-powered solutions for advertisers and publishers.
Today, AdColony is led by a group of veterans not just in mobile gaming, but in brand and performance. Jude O’Connor, who joined AdColony in 2015 as Vice President of Brand and Agency Performance, and scaled it from zero to $40 million annually in just three years, now leads as Chief Revenue Officer.
Camila Franklin is at the helm as Chief Operations Officer (formerly VP Programmatic) and Andrzej Dzius leads AdColony's engineering team as CTO. AdColony has successfully combined its programmatic private marketplace and open exchange expertise with its high-quality, first-party supply and SDK data to reinforce its hold as the No. 1 solution for high-quality, brand-safe and transparent mobile inventory – for 2021 and beyond.
Camila Franklin | COO
Jude O'Connor | VP of Brand & Agency Performance
Andrzej Dzius | CTO
A Decade of AdColony Part 2
Opera & Back Again
Stay Tuned for A Decade of AdColony Part 3