In February 2014, 360i CEO Bryan Wiener relinquished some of his operational control at the digital agency to grow Expion, a content software company in which 360i parent Dentsu owned a minority stake. Mr. Wiener, who was then named chairman of both Expion and 360i, had also previously taken a small stake in Expion. Now it looks to be paying off.
Expion has sold itself to social analytics company Sysomos, continuing a consolidation in marketing tech that signals growing importance for companies that decipher customer data for brands. Terms were not disclosed.
Expion follows the hordes of content software companies that have been bought by larger marketing tech companies -- Buddy Media and Vitrue, for example, which were purchased in 2012 by Salesforce and Oracle. Percolate, another competitor, remains independent but in late 2012 closed a $9 million series A round of financing and in early 2014 scored a seven-figure investment from ad holding-company giant WPP. Marketing tech companies are also investing in ad tech to boost their capabilities. Salesforce recently inked a deal with a number of ad tech partners, and Zeta Interactive, which touts ad and marketing tech, recently secured $125 million in funding to continue its growth through M&A.
"The evolution of data science has coincided with the scale of online sites and data, and yet many companies are still unsure what to do with this huge wealth of insights into customer wants and needs," Sysomos CEO Lindsay Sparks said in a statement. "For companies to excel in this environment, they need not only the ability to understand their customers, but to translate that knowledge into actions and engagements, learn from the customer response to those actions, and iterate."
Expion, which offers software that supports the creation and deployment of digital content, had been 360i's preferred social-platform partner since 2011. Companies with their own Expion contracts include Coke, Mondelez, Estee Lauder, iHeartMedia and Porche.
"The shared vision of Sysomos and Expion, coupled with strong capital backing, enables us to grow and scale as a combined force," said Expion CEO Peter Heffring in a statement.
Marketers seem to welcome consolidation in marketing tech. "With 1,800-plus marketing technology companies out there, it's unclear who to place your bets with to effectively and efficiently run an offensive, real-time, business-focused marketing operation like ours," said Michael Donnelly, senior VP-group head for global digital marketing at Mastercard, an Expion client, in an email."We've developed a disciplined process to do so, but well integrated systems are necessary to execute at scale. While we are not there yet, we do have a vision to ultimately have fewer or even one fully integrated system that effectively allows us to create/curate/shop for content, determine how well it's performed if used in the past, quickly verify rights, translate and/or edit if necessary and publish across allchannels."
Dentsu's minority investment in Expion came in March 2012, and Mr. Wiener joined its board then. He later led a seven-figure investment with funds contributed by himself and some undisclosed executives.
Mr. Wiener, whose role at Expion ends with the sale, will continue to spend the majority of his time with 360i, working with the shop's current global CEO Sarah Hofstetter.