LinkedIn announced it’s buying business-to-business (B2B) digital marketing company Bizo for $175m. The move didn’t grab as many headlines as some of the summer’s blockbuster deals, such as Apple’s purchase of Beats by Dre, but it might be the acquisition that has the biggest impact on the marketing world.
For the time being, the details of the deal, LinkedIn’s second acquisition in the last month alone, remain relatively scarce. But there’s one thing we can be sure of: the move is going to have an impact far beyond LinkedIn. Why? First and foremost, because LinkedIn is already a major player in digital advertising. The business-themed social network now has more than 300 million users, and its ad business grew a remarkable 36 percent last year. If LinkedIn makes a major push beyond its current advertising solutions, it’s going to send shockwaves throughout the industry.
Let’s take a look at three ways that LinkedIn’s acquisition of Bizo may impact marketers in the months ahead.
1. Audience Extension
Much of LinkedIn’s growing ad revenue stems from display ads and the increasingly popular Sponsored Updates format. But there’s still plenty of revenue left for the company to tap. And LinkedIn appears poised to take advantage. For example, if LinkedIn decides to “cookie” customers exposed to its current ad formats and then to layer Bizo’s proprietary data atop existing data, it would suddenly be able to follow its very valuable customers outside of LinkedIn itself. In other words, LinkedIn would be able to use Bizo’s network to continue to serve ads to LinkedIn customers as they browse thousands of sites across the Internet. (While LinkedIn does currently have a similar solution, it’s expensive and offers only limited targeting via the Google Display Network.)
2. Increased Targeting Capabilities
The purchase of Bizo won’t just make it easier for LinkedIn to serve ads beyond its own platform. It will also make LinkedIn’s own display real estate more valuable. In recent years, Facebook (Facebook Exchange and Custom Audiences) and Twitter (Tailored Audiences) have both discovered that data gathered outside of their platforms can be used for much better ad targeting on Facebook and Twitter themselves. Bizo’s business audience data (collected from Bizo’s proprietary network of publishers) could now make it possible to serve more relevant (and effective) ads right on LinkedIn. In other words, the Bizo acquisition might be LinkedIn’s step towards an open advertising exchange for LinkedIn inventory that relies on 3rd-party data.
3. Marketing Automation
Traditional marketing automation companies have done well over the last two years. But it’s now widely understood that a single-channel approach (email is still the most prominent delivery vehicle) has limitations. And, as customers move from phone to desktop to tablet, and so on, marketing automation companies are struggling with cross-device tracking and targeting.
Bizo, meanwhile, has a marketing automation solution that addresses some of these challenges. By adding display as a delivery mechanism to target anonymous site visitors, Bizo allows marketers to reach a much larger audience than traditional marketing automation companies. (The solution is similar to what Eloqua-BlueKai will likely offer to clients.) And if Bizo’s offering was already intriguing, it just got a lot better. Bizo will now presumably have access to LinkedIn as a direct source of inventory.
Better yet, LinkedIn will help Bizo solve the problem of following customers from device-to-device and even make attribution better. When customers are logged into LinkedIn on all of their different devices, it becomes possible to know exactly which screen they’re looking at.
If you’re a digital marketer, get ready. LinkedIn is no longer sitting on the sidelines of the larger trends in digital advertising. Things are about to get a lot more interesting.