Equity Fund Linked to Quicken Loans Buys Seller of Walmart.com Ads

Plan Is to Marry Triad Retail Media's Analytics Capabilities With E-Commerce Browsing, Purchase Data

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

Triad Retail Media -- the fast-growing company that sells display ads on Walmart.com, eBay and CVS.com among other retail sites -- has been acquired by Rockbridge Growth Equity, the private-equity fund controlled by Quicken Loans billionaire founder Dan Gilbert.

The deal for an undisclosed sum will help expand Triad's data and analytics capabilities and delve into a growing trove of e-commerce browsing and purchase data plus expand its mobile and social-media capabilities, said Triad executives.

Besides Quicken Loans, Rockbridge and Mr. Gilbert own wall-graphics brand Fathead; the Cleveland Cavaliers; for-profit Northcentral University; home-security and medical-alert services Protect America and Connect America.

"Some people will view this as a portfolio acquisition," said former P&G executive and current Advertising Research Foundation Exec VP-Digital Ted McConnell, but he said Mr. Gilbert "clearly gets it that advertising decisions, like financial decisions, are more and more driven by analytics capability" and that the deal will let Triad "leverage the analytic horsepower already living inside the Rockbridge family."

Triad President-Chief Operating Officer Roger Berdusco said the company, mainly through digital campaigns on Walmart.com and elsewhere, has "executed more shopper-marketing campaigns than anyone else," and can now use analytics capabilities from Quicken Loans and other Rockbridge companies to mine that data better.

Starting with Walmart.com in 2004, Triad spearheaded the move by retailers to sell display ad space on their websites -- well before Amazon, which in the past year began moving heavily into display ad sales.

Greg Murtagh
Greg Murtagh

Triad's sales of online retailer ads nearly doubled the past two years and rose 40% last year to more than $170 million. Triad founder and CEO Greg Murtagh said he expects overall display sales by e-commerce sites to hit $1 billion within three years. In the past year, Triad has added more sites, including HomeDepot.com and DollarGeneral.com.

The idea behind such ads isn't necessarily to close sales online but to catch shoppers when they're researching purchases, even if they ultimately intend to buy in bricks-and-mortar stores. It's a play in "digital shopper marketing" very much like Google's "Zero Moment of Truth" pitch to advertisers.

Though Mr. Gilbert has been a key player in efforts to create a tech hub in downtown Detroit, Triad headquarters will remain in Tampa, and Messrs. Murtagh and Berdusco said they'll remain with the company.

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CORRECTION: The original version of this article stated that ePrize is still a Rockbridge property.

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