Facebook Ads API Tool Efficient Frontier Acquires Page Management Tool Context Optional

Efficient Frontier, an established search and display advertising platform that offers a self-serve Facebook Ads API tool, has just acquired one of the oldest Page management companies, Context Optional. The reportedly $50 million deal will allow Efficient Frontier to help its existing advertising clients customize the Facebook Pages that their ads sometimes point towards, as well as secure advertising contracts with Context Optional’s clients.

Facebook ad spend is growing, Page management being commodified as free products are released, and the connection between advertising and Page management is deepening due to Facebook’s Sponsored Stories ad unit. These factors could inspire a trend where cash-flush Ads API companies purchase or partner with Page management companies.

Efficient Frontier is primarily a search and display ad company, but seeing the shift in spend towards social, it developed an Ads API tool so clients wouldn’t have to look elsewhere for a way to run their own large scale ad campaigns on Facebook. The tool’s multi-channel interface helps advertisers balance spend between search, display, and social to maximize returns.

However, by being rooted in slower evolving ad channels, Efficient Frontier is slightly less agile in responding to Facebook’s changes. For instance, Justin Merickel, the company’s VP of Marketing told us it added API access to Facebook’s social ad unit Sponsored Stories on April 16th, a month after private beta access to the Sponsored Stories API opened on March 8th. Other Ads API companies that don’t handle search or display reportedly only took a few weeks to include Sponsored Stories in their services, with TBG Digital reporting that it started running Sponsored Stories through the API as soon as March 16th, though we are awaiting confirmation on these dates from Facebook.

Some consider Efficient Frontier to be relatively weak Facebook advertising solution since the tool has social tacked on rather than as core of its targeting and optimization technologies. The need for more social expertise may have contributed to the company’s decision to make its first acquisition a dedicated social engagement tool.

Efficient Frontier CEO David Karnstedt acknowledged that it needed to close the social gap, saying “Our heritage is that we were early in optimizing search engine advertising for clients, so we wanted to expand our efforts exponentially with Context Optional, since social is different than search.”

Context Optional has been helping brands market themselves through Facebook since its launch in 2006. Its suite of apps, analytics tools, and viral marketing services for Facebook,Twitter, and LinkedIn have helped many Fortune 500 companies grow their fan bases, including Allstate, Ford, Microsoft, AT&T, eBay, and CNN.

Page management services were crucial to brands in the early days of Facebook because they didn’t understand how to get started, create apps, or derive value from the social network. However, with time, marketers have learned the ropes of the Platform and many small companies now offer cheap or free ways to create promotional apps. As core Page management services become commodified, the industry needs to find new sources of revenue — namely advertising, as well as ecommerce.

There’s great potential for synergy between companies from the two industries. For instance, Context Optional’s team could create a new branded app for a client, which would then be promoted with ads purchased through Efficient Frontier. Page management companies also hold demographic and engagement data on users that can help improve ad targeting.

The acquisition is a smart move for Efficient Frontier. Context Optional’s Co-Founder and CEO Kevin Barenblat says the acquisition makes sense because”[it and Efficient Frontier’s] respective clients are asking us for a comprehensive solution to both acquire and build relationships with their customers.”

This is probably the case with other Ads API and Page management companies too, so expect more acquisitions and partnerships in the space to emerge over the coming year. As we predicted in February, acquisitions of Page management companies are becoming more common as companies lacking them don’t want to fall further behind by taking months to develop their own.

Some Page management companies like Buddy Media, Syncapse and Vitrue have grown quite large and raised over $30 million, making them too big to be viable acquisition targets for even the larges Ads API companies including TBG Digital, Blinq Media, AdParlor, and Spruce Media. There is a chance that long-established players from search and display advertising could have enough money to buy one of them, though.

There are a host of medium-size companies such as Involver, and smaller companies such as Fan Appz, Brand Glue, Likeable Media, and iPlatform that could be viable acquisition targets for Ads API companies looking to break into social publishing or other digital marketing companies who want to their offering to include Facebook.

More information on the Page management and Ads API companies operating in the Facebook ecosystem can be found in the the Facebook Marketing Bible’s Facebook Marketing Service Provider Directory. It includes the areas of expertise, verticals covered, client lists, portfolio samples, news updates and contact information of organizations of all sizes who are marketing and advertising on Facebook.

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