AOL acquired buy.at in 2008 for a hefty $125 million. Digital Window and especially your majority shareholders Axel Springer AG & PubliGroupe must be very happy with the price negotiated?
We don’t wish to discuss any of the details surrounding the price except to say we purchased 100% of the company and are delighted with the acquisition. Meeting all the staff over the last week has certainly reaffirmed it was the right move and a perfect fit for our company culture.
Buy.at has an exceptionally talented group of employees both from a technical and client services perspective as well as an expansive portfolio of complementary, quality brands. Naturally, our investors agree this makes sound business sense.
Was the purchase of buy.at or another network a strategic / planned decision or a great opportunity not to be missed?
It was both. We have always had plans for the UK market and were looking for ways to expand our reach but also our ability to produce technology faster. Fortunately, our plans coincided with a change in priorities for AOL and so we opened discussions with them. We operate in an exceptionally competitive industry which moves at a rapid pace. We are constantly seeking an edge and this takes time, resource and most importantly quality individuals to support the process. In buy.at we have an organisation that had perhaps lost its way under AOL but there remains a core nucleus of staff with extraordinary potential. Integrating the businesses is most certainly a challenge but it is one we will relish and we strongly believe that with some strategy and direction, both buy.at UK and US will enhance our operation.
Your recent press release states that you are now the largest network in the UK market; congratulations! What market share would you say you now have and is this ultimately good for the market?
It is very difficult to accurately assess the size of the UK market but if you combine the Affiliate Window and Buy.at client base, it’s logical to assume you create the largest collection of high performing brands and therefore the number one player.
As Publishers’ Choice of Network and Most Innovative Network for the last three years running, we pride ourselves on our tools, technology and service and those core values remain very much alive within this newly formed group. Buy.at shares similar values which makes the integration of the two businesses a natural process.
Far from making us complacent, we are 100% committed to upholding and improving all those core values. We wholly recognise a failure to maintain the standards to which our clients have become accustomed, will see us rapidly fall from grace. Our intention is to drive this market forward and use some of our combined innovations to do the same in the US. We are just one week into the process and there are already exciting conversations taking place across the whole business so the market has a lot to look forward to, not to mention the parties.
The buy.at brand has a lot of heritage. Are we likely to see the end of the brand?
Buy.at has done a tremendous amount of work building one of the strongest affiliate marketing brands on the market and we have no intention of throwing all that away. There will be some changes in the long term but that is to be expected. Harnessing the brand values of both networks and delivering a market leading solution is not going to be easy but a network brand only counts for something if it captures the tools, the technology, the people and the experience that made it unique.
How big a factor was it that buy.at had already dipped its toes into the US & European Markets?
International expansion was always on the horizon for Digital Window and buy.at’s foothold in the US was therefore quite attractive. We were fortunate to welcome all the buy.at US staff to London last week to enjoy a drink (or two) at our company wide celebration. There is a really strong, well-respected team over there and we are confident that with clear strategy and direction, the potential is considerable.
We see the UK market as significantly more advanced than the US with merchants taking much greater interest and control over their campaigns. The knowledge we have gained from working in such a demanding market should hold us in good stead over there and the US team is excited about some of the ideas we have proposed.
What main changes are likely to affect the affiliate community in the coming months?
Both platforms are being maintained independently but affiliates can expect to see a lot more collaboration on offers and incentives. Affiliate Window’s Partnerships Team and buy.at’s Affiliate Team will be working closely together to assist affiliates on all the groups’ merchants.
We will also be combining our events to give broader reach and hopefully making them of even greater value to attendees. Apart from that, it will be business as usual.
Are we likely to see a ‘best of both’ network, in terms of technology & tracking, appearing over the next 12 months?
This is core to our strategy and contrary to some people’s thinking, one of the main reasons for the acquisition. There are strengths and weaknesses in both platforms and both technical teams have overcome obstacles the other hasn’t, naturally we will be seeking feedback from all stakeholders to determine the best route forward and the likely time frames involved.
Finally both buy.at and Affiliate Window are known for their great publisher events! Does this acquisition mean we'll see less of them?
Not less, but we may take the opportunity to reinvent what we do. Rest assured the elements that make them typical of buy.at or Affiliate Window will remain. We’ve already had a joint internal celebration at Shoreditch House private members club, suffice to say the cultural fit for both organisations is perfect.