Following the major rebrand of digital marketing and advertising giant, ValueClick Media, to Conversant, we caught up with the US-founded company’s CMO, Scott Eagle.

The NASDAQ-listed business, which owns brands such as affiliate marketing company Commission Junction, Greystripe, Mediaplex and Dotomi, decided to consolidate its portfolio of brands under the one new name, last month.

How did its clients feel about this? Did it impact its share price and what challenges were involved with such a move?

Eagle, who joined the business in March last year, gives PerformanceIN the lowdown:

How long had the re-brand been in the pipeline and why was February the best time to announce this?

Launching the new Conversant brand was the final step in uniting our businesses into a single personalisation company. We’ve been bringing together components of our businesses for years, but it was about a year ago when we decided to unite everything in service of our mission to empower brands to speak 1:1 with each of their customers. Marketing planning began in about midyear of 2013.

Throughout our 15 years in the industry we made several strategic acquisitions to assemble an ad tech dream team – Dotomi, Mediaplex, Conversant Media, Greystripe and Commission Junction. This rebrand represents the unification of these five companies to power a new generation of personalisation solutions.

We didn’t pick February for a specific reason other than that we wanted to have fully realised our vision for a united company before we re-launched our business – it was important to us that the changes be real before the shiny new brand was put out there. We all know there’s too much hype and hot air in digital, and we wanted to be true to our story.

What are the top three key reasons for commencing with a rebrand/consolidation?

A united company and business needed a united name, mission and positioning.

1. Strategically Uniting our Businesses: The unification under one brand, Conversant, represents how we bring together the strengths of all of our divisions, including:

  • Comprehensive online and online data onboarding and the development of a single, real-time customer understanding
  • Ability to identify anonymized user profiles wherever the user accesses the web, across channels and devices
  • Comprehensive capabilities for cross-device, display, mobile, video and 1:1 creative solutions
  • Truly comprehensive reporting and analytics that measure programme results and provide genuine user insights on both macro and individual levels

2. Growing With our Customers: Marketers are struggling with too many vendors and the massive challenges of integrating all their partners. We just did a survey of leading agency and direct buyers that showed that the average company had 27 digital partners. That’s 27!! By uniting our offerings and working to comprehensively integrate them, we can simplify integration and become a more strategic partner offering better results via solutions across more channels and devices.

3. Capitalising on the Power of Personalisation: A recent study showed that 73% of marketers agree that personalised marketing is the future. The Conversant brand perfectly reflects how we are ushering the industry into a new era from clicks to conversations.

How has business been, for each of the brands since the rebrand?

We’re very pleased thus far. Our new brand and the attention we have received with our 1:1 marketing story is opening many new doors for us. We’ve increased the number of prospects who are seeking out information on our solutions, and are expanding the breadth of solutions we offer to leading clients. This is true across all of our business units.

What are the main challenges regarding such a rebrand?

The key in brand marketing is to match the brand to what makes the product special. We conducted extensive market research to understand our opportunities as a company and as a brand moving forward. And across that research, no matter which of our constituent groups was surveyed (employees, clients, prospects, partners) – the results revealed that under our old brand structure we weren’t being given credit for everything we offered or the great results we provided for our clients. Each group encouraged the rebrand and was resoundingly supportive.

The main challenges over the past year were to maximise the tremendous value of our assets.  We had amazing data and insights from our many businesses, multiple tech stacks around ad serving, multiple data analytics platforms, personalisation platforms, etc. So the great problem/challenge we had was how to best unite our technology, expertise and people to set us up as a united solution to better meet client needs. The best analogy is to the US basketball team in the‘92 Olympics – the Dream Team.  You had so many choices to deploy your team/bench – you aren’t going to lose, but how can you stack them up to become the dream team?

Were you worried about losing or panicking clients with such a big change?

Clients and the industry have enthusiastically supported our initiatives and in fact felt the rebranding was long overdue given our assets. They understood that by uniting all of our solutions we are now able to offer customers a more seamless experience in getting the guidance and solutions they need to personalise and optimize their digital marketing programmes.

Why was it so important to the company to offload its ‘Owned & Operated’ websites division, and soon after commence with a rebrand?

We concluded that they did not align with our strategy of leveraging our broad set of unique data assets and differentiated technology platforms to connect consumers and brands through personalised one-to-one marketing at scale.

You said Conversant’s US affiliate division, CJ Affiliate by Conversant, will roll out market by market throughout 2014. When can we expect this to happen in the UK exactly? And aside from a name change, will there be any other differences?

Later this year, the rebrand will roll out internationally. We’ll have more details to share soon!

Matomy also recently consolidated some of its operations, just as Conversant has. Do you see yourself (and Matomy) as the leaders in the performance marketing space? And do you expect other companies to follow suit and begin consolidating?

We strongly believe personalisation is the future of digital marketing, be it performance or brand marketing. Every day our company drives an average of more than five million sales transactions.

But we have always been believers in the power of brands and the value of 1:1 engagement over time. Marketers need to drive sales today but also build on the brand foundation that will drive sales and brand value over the long haul. That dual challenge – DR plus brand engagement – is what drives us as an organisation. It’s what excites us!

Do you think the rebrand will increase the company’s appeal as a takeover target?

We don’t comment on speculation or rumors related to Conversant as an acquisition target.

In the weeks following the rebrand, how would you summarise your share price activity?

Positive! When the rebrand was announced on February 3, the share price was at $20.95. As of Mar 14, the price is at $24.16. (For a historical chart of prices, see here)

What other business news does Conversant have in the pipeline for 2014?

In February we acquired SET Media, a digital video technology company that connects brands with people through high quality, targeted and brand safe video advertising. The acquisition strengthened our technology stack and our portfolio of digital video ad products.

We see tremendous opportunity in digital video – according to Global Online Video Advertising Platforms Market, the global market for digital video advertising is expected to grow from $5.3 billion in 2012 to $15.1 billion in 2016. SET’s video technology platform offers both contextual targeting and brand safety. Combined with Conversant’s existing data and targeting we’ve created a very powerful combination.

And there’s plenty more to come!

See below for related stories:

ValueClick Rebrands into ‘Single Marketing Powerhouse’
ValueClick Appoints new European Boss
INside the Boardroom: President at CJ Global, Kerri Pollard