Criteo Suffers $24 Million Hit Due to Covid-19 as Q1 Revenue Tumbles 10%

An even steeper decline is forecast for Q2

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Key insight:

Criteo posted revenues of $503 million for Q1, representing a 10% year-over-year drop, with the ad-tech company stating the Covid-19 crisis impacted revenues by about $24 million during the period.

The latest disclosure comes just three weeks after Criteo withdrew its earlier revenue guidance for the 2020 fiscal year as most advertisers across the globe press pause on ad spend amid the ongoing pandemic.

Despite the overall downturn, Criteo’s revenue excluding traffic acquisition costs (ex-TAC) came in at the upper end of its recently adjusted forecasts during the quarter at $206 million, surpassing market analysts’ expectations.

While Criteo is not in a position to provide investors with an updated forecast for 2020 revenue, its leadership team informed investors that the ongoing Covid-19 crisis will negatively impact its Q2 revenues by between $60 million and $65 million. “We expect revenue ex-TAC to be between $140 million and $147 million, implying constant-currency decline of approximately 32% to 35%,” read its filing.

Criteo CEO Megan Clarken added, “We believe our core strength in direct response marketing will help our customers best rebound from these unusual times.”

Recovery plans

The company has forecast that retail, a key industry vertical for the ad-tech company, will recover in the second half of 2020 in Europe but it will likely remain weak until Q4 in the U.S, Clarken later told market analysts.

“For travel,” another key vertical for Criteo’s retargeting offering, “we have modeled a much slower recovery leading to a still-material impact by the end of the year,” she added.

Although many clients are pressing pause on their ad spend, ecommerce has proven to be a highlight for Criteo during the Covid-19 pandemic as much of the global population remains under lockdown.

“We’re excited about the growth and resilience of our new products. Our app-install product has performed well since the outbreak, growing 90% in Q1, especially with nontraditional clients. This was close to 45% better than expected,” she said.

Clarken went on to note that demand for app installs will remain high as much of the world’s population is under stay-at-home orders for an uncertain amount of time, providing further opportunities for the ad-tech company.

The prospect of app install products gaining a great share of Criteo’s revenue stream is likely to prove an attractive prospect, especially as they are largely independent of cookie restrictions, a market development the ad-tech company is critically exposed to.

Additionally, Criteo wants to further its retail media offering, including a strengthened self-service platform, as well as partnerships with measurement providers, such as Nielsen, and resellers as it aims to improve its brand advertising offering, as well as extend its core retargeting service to small and medium-size businesses.

Criteo’s turnaround plan also includes the potential of using cash reserves to buy its way to growth, with Clarken telling analysts, “we remain extremely thoughtful about any potential new M&A going forward” even though it is currently implementing a series of cost-saving measures.

Cookie decline preparations

Prior to the current economic crisis, the largest challenge facing Criteo was internet browser providers gradually eroding the efficacy of the third-party cookies essential to ad targeting, with reports that Google would withdraw support for cookies in its marketing leading Chrome browser dealing a hammer blow to its share price.

Clarken said the company was continuing to mitigate its exposure to such changes by integrating with advertisers and publishers to help construct an identity graph that can target “well over 2 billion” people based on data points such as hashed emails and logins.

“We’ve made further progress to move beyond browser control,” she added. “We continue to leverage our direct integration with advertisers and publishers, and use their first-party data as a means to create identity solutions for our clients. This first-party data continues to feed our ID graph.”

Criteo’s filing came just hours after Alphabet, the parent company of online advertising behemoth Google, similarly disclosed that Covid-19 had a negative impact on its business in Q1, with executives there stating Q2 will be “a difficult one for our advertising business.”


@ronan_shields ronan.shields@adweek.com Ronan Shields is a programmatic reporter at Adweek, focusing on ad-tech.
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