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Publicis Acquires Profitero, Adding to In-House Commerce Suite
Publicis acquired Profitero earlier this month for roughly $200 million.

Despite rising inflation, growing turmoil abroad, fears of recession, and bearish momentum across tech in general, there’s still value in tech acquisitions that make sense. Publicis has been on quite a tear in recent years – first acquiring Epsilon to build out its consumer data portfolio and then acquiring CitrusAd to provide an in-house ad-serving platform at the retail level. Most recently, they pursued the Profitero acquisition.

The Profitero purchase was fueled by the ecommerce boom. Sure, COVID restrictions are easing and people are heading back to stores, but rituals have changed. Buying online – the ease, the speed, the thrill – has become more and more ingrained in people’s daily lives. Brick and mortar will survive, but ecommerce will continue to thrive.

Understanding this trajectory, Publicis has attempted to build out its offering through purchase. The company scaled different aspects of retail media technology as quickly as possible while accumulating data to improve their overall offering. The Profitero acquisition provides them a keener eye within the retail landscape. Focused on digital shelf analytics, their newest toy dives headfirst into the retail landscape (across 700+ sites!) via market share assessments, competitive insights, inventory tracking – all in the name of improving overall return.

Again, it’s a wise acquisition of a strong competitor. However, such acquisitions do come with limitations. Much like with their acquisition of CitrusAd, Publicis is picking a lane. Signing on with Publicis means an advertiser is going to be guided towards their in-house platform (CitrusAd) despite the existence of other options.

Similar to their most recent acquisition of Profitero (as it relates to competitive intelligence, content creation, and search insights), any advertiser running with Publicis knows what they’re getting before signing on. They’re becoming almost ERP-like in that sense – sign on the dotted line for the full, in-house product suite. This may or may not be a good thing.

ERPs are losing favor in the commerce world because nimbler, more composable options are available. When thinking how to assemble a world-class ecommerce offering, the agency should help guide the advertiser towards the best possible platform. Getting saddled with an in-house option makes things tricky. Sure, the ability to dive deep into an in-house product – as opposed to relying on third-party insights – provides a slight advantage, but should that be prioritized over having options?

Staying agile should be a top requirement. Agencies that can be partner agnostic and aren’t shackled to a singular solution can often provide the best overall suite of products.

Acquisitions are great, but as with any big purchase, they tend to lock you in.