Extreme Reach CEO Tim Conley and Adstream CEO Daniel Mark talk LBB through the merger that will change the global game for marketers

Extreme Reach CEO Tim Conley and Adstream CEO Daniel Mark talk LBB through the merger that will change the global game for marketers

Yesterday, in a move that has transformative ramifications for the world of marketing, Extreme Reach announced it will acquire Adstream. The combination of the two powerhouse companies sets up a potentially game-changing proposition – creating a seamless platform from which brands and marketers can deploy their communications.

The new offering brings together previously disparate parts of the campaign activation landscape. A new centralized platform will offer global creative asset management, talent & rights management, video ad serving and TV/CTV/OTT activation, and provide an unprecedented library of data and insight.

Far from an overnight bombshell, the acquisition has been a long time in the making. To find out how it happened and what it all means, LBB spoke to Extreme Reach CEO Tim Conley and Adstream CEO Daniel Mark:

LBB> Hello, both. You must have been talking about this for a while – what makes now the right time for Extreme Reach to buy a business like Adstream?
Tim Conley> Daniel and I talked about this when we first connected a couple of years ago, and the idea always made sense. Our customers are going global, or they’re already global, and they’re looking for global solutions. And I think that the combination of Adstream and Extreme Reach is just a perfect match. A lot of the asset management tools, workflow tools, and infrastructure that they bring to the table, as well as that global footprint matched with some of the unique offerings that we have, makes for a fantastic combination.

LBB> Daniel, what was most exciting for you and the team about this merger?
Daniel Mark> Firstly, to echo what Tim said, the timing was just right. Adstream has got through this time very well, we just posted a record year, but we want to take it to the next level and, most importantly, have the right strategic fit. I think it was important for the foundation [Ramsay Holdings] that they found the right home for Adstream.

It helps that we think in very similar ways. Our strategy in terms of how we want to serve our clients is very similar, and that’s what really came out of the conversations that we’ve had. We’re actually very, very similar businesses, with very similar ambitions. The ability to put together the technologies and offer a full end-to-end marketing workflow solution for the industry is something that’s really exciting to us.

From the team’s perspective, we of course have a very solid business that has been performing well. But the missing piece for us was always in the digital space and integrated talent & rights management, so to be able to offer full-service is very exciting for the team. From my perspective, and the management team’s perspective, it was a no brainer. Because this is a deal that’s going to enhance the value that we offer to our clients.

LBB> And I guess for the first time ever now, what you’ve got is a truly global offering. How important do you think that will be to brands and the larger networks?
Tim> I think we’re finding every day that it’s more and more important for global advertisers to be able to execute campaigns, in compliance, across the world – not just in North America, and not just in Europe.

Additionally, we have a lot of cases where content is being recreated in multiple countries. And so a big part of our solution is to be able to not only get that content to where it needs to go, but also have an asset management system built as part of the process in this unified platform that we have.

What happens is, throughout that entire process, you create a natural asset management system. You have your assets, and crucially you have all the information around the assets – what they cost, where they can be used, and where they can’t be used. And then as you send those assets out into the world, we also know where they’re going and we can help customers understand how they’re getting the best ROI for those assets. And then if they want to reuse those assets later on, or portions of those assets, they have all the information they need to confidently make those decisions. It’s simplifying a very complicated problem for our customers globally.

LBB> You’ve said that by coming together, you can ‘establish a new paradigm for success’, for yourselves and your clients. So what does ‘success’ look like for you?
Daniel> So prior to this announcement we gave some of our key global clients a bit of a heads-up. And the feedback from those big, big, global multinational brands, was ‘great’. They are mainly using Extreme Reach for talent & rights management globally, with Adstream looking after all their workflow and asset management delivery globally. And so from the clients’ perspectives, they’re sitting there going, ‘well hang on a minute, this could be amazing’.

It’s now an all-in-one kind of solution, and we are really excited about that. As far as we can see, we’re the only one that can offer this seamless proposition. Everyone else is going to be a patchwork quilt, putting things together. So that feels like success.

Tim> What I would point out is that with a lot of these deals, people are just sort of looking at how much cost or savings they’re getting out of it. But that really isn’t the case here. I mean, certainly, there are some overlapping costs, and we’ll look at those. But this is really about growth for both companies. It’s about the ability to put our systems together, bring our customers together, and to provide them more tools and more resources to make them successful. That, ultimately, is how we will measure success.

LBB> So how is this all going to work on a practical level? Because obviously you guys have built up tools and systems over the years. How do you see all that coming together?
Tim> So Katie Nykanen, who’s the CTO of Adstream, is now going to be Chief Product Officer across the entire company. And the great thing about Katie is that not only does she have the technical expertise, but she also comes from the client side before she was at Adstream – so she understands what the clients need. But to directly answer the question, I think what we’ve determined in this time that we’ve been working together is that we both built systems that are very modular, and we built them on pretty much the exact same technology using the cloud. And so we believe that we actually can bring the best of both systems into one in a fairly short period of time. It’s actually pretty simple.

Really, that was another very compelling reason to do this deal. Because we had systems that were so compatible together, there is no need for a big rewrite. We’re just picking the modules that are the best from both companies, and we’re putting it all together in a way that is beneficial for the client.

LBB> When it’s pulled together. Daniel, is there anything that you guys think that you want to explore as a next step?
Daniel> The one thing I’d highlight from bringing all of our products together is what the data can bring. So when we bring all these different elements together, there’s endless possibilities with the data that you’re capturing. If you’ve got the asset, and the metadata within the asset management platform, and all the delivery data globally from all the different types of cross media deliveries. Add to this talent and rights management, and all the cost data that we’re bringing together. The value of this data to our clients is something that is really untapped, and we think this is a game changer.

LBB> On a personal level, how long have you guys known each other, and are you looking forward to working together?
Daniel> Our first conversation was a couple of years ago, when I got to know Tim and Gaurav Agarwal (Extreme Reach’s COO), and the strange thing is, obviously, throughout this pandemic, we haven’t been able to get together. But despite that, what’s really come across is that Tim’s a fantastic guy workwise, and also a really decent guy in terms of being able to do the right things by people. Everyone that we’ve met and worked with so far, on the Extreme Reach side, have all been quality individuals just kind of in terms of personal characteristics as well as being good at their job.

I think that when you’re working so intensively with people, particularly given these remote modes of communication, you’ve got to have good chemistry and the chemistry with the teams that have met so far in the management teams has been second to none.

Tim> I would agree with that, 100%. Just to add to that, we’ve made several acquisitions in the last few years – and none have been as complementary and cooperative. I think our teams have interacted extremely well. I can’t think of a single contentious issue in this deal. We all saw the opportunity right from the very beginning, and knew exactly what needed to be done. And so it’s been a fantastic relationship so far, and I have no reason to think it’s going to be any different when we do come together.

LBB> There’s an interesting trend in advertising right now where we are seeing more independent agencies setting up than seemingly ever before. Those independent agencies need support – do you see that as a market of interest?
Tim> Yes, absolutely. One of the unique things about our combined system is that we operate as sort of a central hub. So an advertiser can work with many agencies, or they can work with a single agency, or agencies can work with us.

We also offer a lot of other services even outside of that central system. Adstream offers a lot of other services for those smaller independent agencies that need more support, business affairs or other sort of support, we can help them there as well. We will have the ability to bring resources to the table when a customer needs it, and our ability to just give them a system that they can use without our help if they want to. So yes, I think there’s a lot of potential there.

LBB> Have you discussed branding at all so far?
Daniel> That’s been the most asked question from our heads of business! We are aligned on this. Adstream is being acquired by Extreme Reach as the legal entity, but the question of keeping the Adstream brand will be decided by the demands and expectations of individual markets. In terms of which brand, that’s a marketing question.

Tim> I agree. There is definitely some work to do there, no doubt about it, and we’re not going to make any sort of rash decisions about what to do. Throughout this entire process, we’ve been focused on what works best for the client. For the time being, both names will exist.

LBB> Daniel, you’re going to be stepping into a strategic role. What’s exciting you about that new position?
Daniel> It’s hugely exciting. Fundamentally, we’ve been working on blueprints that we’ve set out already over recent months, and what we now need to do is execute that strategy. Now, we’ve got all the different elements, what we need to do is bring the products together into a coherent form. And we need to make sure that we launch those products across our global markets in a way that can maximise the impact and the benefits for our clients. And in my role, I’ll be making sure we execute on that strategy in a way that delivers on our promises to shareholders and prioritises the needs of our clients. I’m super excited about it.

LBB> And finally, what would you think – or hope – the company will look like in three years time?
Tim> Well, I simply hope that we will continue to achieve our vision. When we first started Extreme Reach, we had a vision to power the world’s video advertising. It’s a little vague, but at the same time, you kind of instinctively know what it means. And so with this combination, I think we’re well on our way to powering the world’s video advertising. So in three years from now, I hope that’s exactly what we’re doing across the entire advertising landscape. I think that we have all the tools now that we need to complete that vision. So that’s my hope – and I’m feeling confident.

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