Publicis Groupe acquires CitrusAd as the retail media space heats up

The retail media platform will live under Epsilon.

The retail media business is booming and Publicis wants a piece of the pie.

The holding company said Thursday it has acquired CitrusAd, a retail media platform  working with more than 70 global retailers and 4,000 CPG brands to optimize ad placements on e-commerce sites. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

CitrusAd is present in 22 countries, with half of its business based in the United States. The business will operate as a standalone entity under Epsilon, which plans to incorporate its identity solution, CORE ID, into the platform.

Retail media, an emerging business that enables CPG brands to optimize their ad placements on retailer sites at the point of purchase, is worth $30 billion and expected to double in the next five years, according to Publicis.

“The leading technology [CitrusAd has] developed, coupled with Epsilon’s CORE ID will enable CPG brands to grow faster and retailers to generate new sources of revenue to win in a platform world,” Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun said in a statement. “It will also give Publicis a strong competitive advantage in a channel that by 2025 should surpass traditional TV spend.”

CitrusAd’s platform stood out to Publicis because it centralizes a number of fragmented point solutions in the retail media space, from monetization to measurement and reporting. The platform also integrates with retailers on a server-to-server basis, as opposed to within the browser, eliminating the need to rely on third-party cookies for targeting and measurement.

Incorporating Epsilon’s CORE ID into CitrusAd will enable advertisers to link their activity on retailer sites to off-site activity without relying on cookies. The integration will also allow them to use retailer first-party data to power campaigns from e-commerce sites, from CTV to display.

CitrusAd is self-service, allowing buyers to optimize their own campaigns and put more money toward working media, as opposed to other retail media networks, which charge a black box fee on top of the media buy. As the retail media space grows globally, CitrusAd’s footprint and integrations with local retailer platforms in different regions will be key.

For CitrusAd, the opportunity to invest in its platform while remaining a standalone business was appealing, said David Haase, chief revenue and development officer.

“We're excited on the innovation and tech side to continue to build the right products brands want to buy and make it easy for retailers to implement,” he said.

While CitrusAd isn’t Publicis Groupe’s first ad tech acquisition (Epsilon owns ad tech platform Conversant among other assets), it’s not typical these days to see holding companies acquire technology. Many bought trading desks during the rise of programmatic buying and were burned for not being transparent about the margins they took for services provided on top of media buys.

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