Advertising M&A Activity Enters The Holiday Season

There’s been a great deal of M&A deals getting done in the online advertising and analytics space this past year and a number of companies are working on getting their shopping out of the way before the end of the year. Two relatively small deals were announced this morning that highlights the increasing focus on the Russian market and the continued importance of building up analytics.

In the case of online ad firm Specific Media, its purchase of Amsterdam-based AdCombination comes a little more than a month after it bought video ad network BBE, while Aegis market research unit Synovate’s acquisition of a majority stake in Russia’s Comcon are likely to be first of many such deals this month.

M&A activity in the marketing, information and digital media/commerce areas were 27 percent in Q3,said media investment bank Petsky Prunier, which tracked 200 deals for its September survey. In its overview of the M&A landscape, the Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc. said the value of deals increased 42- and 95 percent, respectively, over 2009 levels in the first three quarters of 2010. The expectation by both bankers was that Q4 would see a lot more deals, especially in the marketing services and analytics space.

European expansion: For Irvine, CA-based Specific Media, the purchase of AdCombination follows its expansion into the Nordic region with office openings in Norway and Denmark in 2009 and Sweden in 2010. It’s been a much better year for online ad companies like Specific Media, so the move into the Benelux region also bets on the focus on European growth despite the continued economic uncertainty. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but it was likely smaller than the $65 million Specific Media paid to acquire BBE. Release

Rocket to Russia: For the past two years, the common view of ad holding companies like Aegis is that now is the time to build up a presence in Russia. As our headlines have shown in just the past few weeks, there’s a lot going on, including investments from relatively new Russian VC Runa Capital, which just injected $2 million into OnAir3G, a mobile-based social network there. Furthermore, there’s a lot of speculation about the IPO market there, especially for tech firms.

In the case of Aegis’ Synovate unit, aligning itself with Comcon is a chance to solidify its position in the Russian market. It’s still testing the waters though and did not pursue a complete acquisition of the company, which claimed to have generated $18.9 million in revenue last year. The deal does allow for a 100 percent acquisition of Comcon by 2015, if Synovate feels the partnership — and its Russian business — is going well. Release