Search Agency 360i Goes Indie Route

Parent Buys Back Business While Others Consolidate

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Bucking the industry trend of consolidation, the parent company of search agency 360i, Innovation Interactive, has completed a management-led buyout from Japan-based Livedoor.
360i CEO Bryan Wiener
360i CEO Bryan Wiener

Innovation Interactive is the holding company of both 360i and the technology-driven Search Ignite, which licenses its bid-management technology to third parties as well. ABC Capital Partners backed the buyout, the terms of which were not disclosed.

Philosophy of independence
Certainly at a time when ad agencies, private-equity firms and even media companies are looking to bolster their digital assets, it's more common for a company with technology roots and an understanding of the search space to play the role of the acquired. But the move was a commitment to a philosophy of independence, said Bryan Wiener, CEO of 360i.

"We're strong believers that an independent company with strong financial backing is in best position to innovate," he said. "The pace of change is so rapid right now that consolidation is not in the best interest of clients."

In Ad Age's 2006 Search Marketing Fact Pack, 360i was named the fifth-largest search agency, with estimated revenue of $18.6 million. Much of its business is concentrated in two verticals: media and entertainment and retail. Recently, it has begun branching out into non-search online advertising as well.

'Agency of the future'
"Our thesis has always been that auctions were going to expand from search and move on and become more prevalent in display and video, we think the Google acquisition of DoubleClick and Yahoo buying Right Media is only going to accelerate that," Mr. Wiener said. "The agency of the future will have a strong core capability in buying and optimizing auction based media, it's going to need strong foundation in technology, and it'll need to have a strong entrepreneurial culture that's able to innovate rapidly."

The move comes months after Interpublic Group of Cos. acquired search marketing firm Reprise Media and weeks after WPP Group shelled out $680 million for 24/7 Real Media, which has a strong search business, mostly concentrated in Asia.
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