AKQA Adds Search Tech Firm

NEW YORK AKQA has bought search technology firm SearchRev as part of its drive to build what CEO Tom Bedecarre calls the “marketing operating system for the next generation.”

SearchRev, based in Palo Alto, Calif., employs about 60 people and has operated for five years. Clients and agencies use its technology to help manage their search ad campaigns. Clients include Coca-Cola, Yahoo!, Shutterfly, RealNetworks and Safeway. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The acquisition is the first since AKQA was purchased by private equity firm General Atlantic in February. Bedecarre said further deals would expand the agency into new areas, like search marketing and marketing optimization, building a marketing services and ad company for the digital age.

“It’s about integrating the reporting of how dollars are spent and optimized across display, search, mobile and all sorts of platforms,” he said. “It’s going to be technology run and optimized as opposed to media planners and analysts making decisions. I think a lot of it will be automated.”

SearchRev’s technology is used to determine the true value of clicks on search ads, then use factors like geography, time of day and search engine to shape bidding strategy.

SearchRev will remain a separate entity, operating as AKQA’s technology arm, under the leadership of co-founders David Kandasamy and Eduardo Llach. It will work closely with AKQA’s media department, which has about 40 people, led by Scott Symonds. When he joined AKQA in January, Symonds tabbed building its search capability as a top priority. AKQA handles search marketing duties for Visa and Current TV.

“In addition to offering SEM, we want to start building the technology platform for other things we can add on,” Bedecarre said.

In building a broader marketing services company with a strong tech component, AKQA is following a similar path to the recent industry wunderkind, aQuantive, which Microsoft bought for $6 billion. Others, like 360i and iCrossing, are emulating aQuantive’s combination of an agency business and technology arm. ICrossing, a search agency, in recent months has acquired both an analytics business and a Web design firm.

While he said other acquisitions are likely, Bedecarre discounted the notion that he is “on a buying spree with a General Atlantic credit card.” Future areas he highlighted were filling out AKQA’s media capabilities, analytics and global footprint.

“Clients want more of an integrated solution across search and display,” he said. “Search is the funnel that’s driving people to some site or landing page, and they want that experience optimized. We’re trying to develop a set of core technology assets that will let us do that.”