Verizon’s ad tech exit puts spotlight on other telecom giants still in the game
Verizon’s sale of its media and ad tech group to Apollo today raises questions over whether the ad tech ventures of other large telecommunications rivals still make sense, ad industry executives say. It also leaves the ad world wondering how to work with the new Yahoo moving forward.
“There are very few examples of advertising businesses by telecommunications companies,” says Brian Wieser, global president of business intelligence at GroupM. “Where it has been successful is when the businesses have been run completely separately.” Still, he says, the most important element of Verizon Media’s ad tech empire has been its access to individual user data through its AOL and Yahoo email services. “That’s what causes [users] to come back to their properties on a frequent basis,” says Wieser. “That’s what at its heart differentiates itself from other businesses.”
The new Yahoo is telling agencies the sale won’t disrupt how it works with advertisers. According to an email sent to agencies this morning and reviewed by Ad Age, the new Yahoo will still have access to Verizon’s data. “Our connected ad platforms will remain at the forefront, offering our customers industry-leading DSP, SSP, Search and Exchange solutions,” the email says. “We will continue to lead the way on Identity, Unified Stack solutions, Premium supply, emerging formats like OTT [over-the-top] and DOOH [digital-out-of-home], and advanced omni-channel solutions. Our 1st-party data and trusted content through our owned and operated properties remains strong.”
Verizon’s exit throws a bigger shadow on AT&T, says a top ad agency executive. AT&T’s ad tech efforts have mostly manifested themselves in Xandr, AT&T’s digital ad marketplace, which has also been at the center of sale speculation in recent months. Verizon’s move will surely heighten such chatter over whether AT&T is also looking to exit ad tech as well, says the executive.
Verizon had announced the sale of Verizon Media to Apollo Global Management in a deal worth $5 billion. The deal includes Verizon Media brands like Yahoo Finance, AOL and TechCrunch, as well as its ad tech and media platform businesses, according to the release. When the deal is completed, the new company will be rebranded as Yahoo, and Verizon will retain a 10% stake.
The sale of Verizon Media comes amid a flurry of recent news concerning the group’s ad tech operations. Last month, Verizon announced a second advertising identifier, called Next-Gen Solutions, that can provide targeted advertising without using a one-to-one identifier. Its first identity solution, called ConnectID, creates an individual identity per user.
Verizon will still go ahead with its scheduled Newfronts presentation tomorrow afternoon, a Verizon Media representative said through email.
Still, while Verizon’s ad tech operations are considered hefty in the industry, analysts speculate the risks associated with ad tech might outweigh the benefits, particularly around issues like user trust. Harnessing customer data to identify audiences could eventually put Verizon in hot water with regulators, says Wieser—a relationship the company is loath to disrupt, given how much revenue that side of the business generates in comparison.
The finances may not work in favor of keeping the business around, says Wieser. “We know on a combined basis, Verizon Media is a very large business and is being valued like a very small business.”