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2022’s dealmaking is already underway, will it be a year of smaller, better, cheaper?

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2022’s dealmaking is already underway, will it be a year of smaller, better, cheaper?

One safe prediction for 2022 is that there’ll be more dealmaking in the ad tech sector. Mergers and acquisitions are continuing at a relentless pace after the bumper year that was 2021, but there will be fewer, larger deals left to be done.

Many of the splashiest companies have been snapped up, while those that wanted to go public have either done so or are well on their way. It also doesn’t help that ad tech bosses have a laundry list of distractions to keep them from these deals: growing scrutiny from advertisers, more competition among publicly traded companies for media dollars, the knock-on effect of inflation to name a few.

The window for deals is open but not as wide as it was last year when there was a glut of hairy, strategic moves made.

The deals so far …

Expect more deals like those that have already been announced since the turn of the year: Integral Ad Science acquired Paris-based content classification company Context, Human (formerly White Ops) raised $100 million, and now Magnite has acquired Nth Party, a startup specializing in secure audience data-sharing and analysis. Meanwhile, social marketing company Smartly.io this week announced it’s writing a $100 million check for Ad-Lib.io in a bid to broaden its competencies on the Google marketing stack. 

They’re all less glamorous than the flurry of activity that defined 2021 but more focused. The rate of ad tech companies debuting on the public market, on the other hand, is likely to cool. In fact, they have been doing so ever since the fall. There were only three companies to go public during the third quarter versus 15 over the first, per investment bank Luma Partners. 

“You’re already starting to see the makeup of acquisitions shift toward smaller deals,” said Abeed Janmohamed, founding partner of growth consultancy Volando. “Based on the conversations we’re already having, it wouldn’t surprise me if deal sizes continued on this trajectory where they pursue deals that are more capability and people-focused. The reality is a lot of these larger companies already have the back office functions sorted and have already covered off the areas where they can drive economies of scale.”

Not to say there isn’t scope for bigger deals. Microsoft’s purchase of Xandr proves otherwise, as does MediaMath’s exploration of a potential sale that could result in a behemoth. Given the fragmented nature of the ad tech industry, the need for continued consolidation still exists.

Bifurcation of the open web 

Ciarán O’Kane, CEO WireCorp, and general partner at start-up investment fund First Party Capital told Digiday that one impact of the latest wave of ad tech M&A will be the erosion of scaled audience buys across the open internet. He further predicted this will result in a bifurcation of the open web. In one camp there will be “utility publishers” that will seek to outsource their ad tech capabilities, while more mainstream publishers will seek to operate as “mini walled gardens.” 

Utility publishers’ needs will drive funding 

O’Kane defined “utility publishers” as media owners that have troves of first-party data, albeit, without the scale of household, legacy media brands that have historically relied on the ad-funded business model. This ‘new’ cohort of media owners is likely to deem advertising as a potential “nice add-on” and therefore likely to continue to outsource their ad tech. 

Such publishers are more likely to partner with outfits such as Kevel — a company whose website claims it users APIs to help companies including Ticketmaster, WeTransfer, and Yelp — to bolster monetization either through ad serving or the placement of native ads or sponsored listings.

Certain financial backers are placing their bets on such ad tech companies with the fact that Kevel raised $10 million in Series B funding, led by Fulcrum Equity Partners, last month evidence of such a mindset according to O’Kane.

One significant impact of the creeping privacy laws around the globe is the challenges they pose to media-buying teams when it comes to implementing audience-led campaigns at scale, outside of the walled gardens of Amazon, Facebook, and Google, that is.

The rise of ‘mini walled gardens’ 

However, publishers, and ad tech companies, will look to plug this gap, by forming their own “mini walled gardens”, according to O’Kane, who predicted the subsequent return to contextual advertising will spur further M&A deals this year. He described the current dynamics facing the market as “a funny reversion”, albeit a data-driven one, whereby the ad-supported internet is starting to resemble a series of “mini walled gardens.” 

The trend is already underway when we think of M&A deals of recent years such as how Smart Adserver, a company that historically operated on the sell-side of the industry, purchased demand-side platform LiquidM in late 2019 in a bid to gain greater visibility of the market’s pricing dynamics. “We’re probably going to see is a fall back to contextual [media buys],” added O’Kane, “we might see a lot of publishers look to buy ad tech in order to build their own solution, and then sell that into the agencies.”

Why now?  

Given that Google is less than two years away from retiring third-party cookies, the historic connective tissue of programmatic advertising, the temperature is ratcheting up, resulting in a climate that could be ripe for dealmaking among many publishers’ minds. And with marketers increasingly voicing their eagerness to reduce their reliance on Big Tech’s walled gardens, 2022 could see publishers act on this impetus to buy ad tech that’s available, as long as the price is right.

Smaller, but more valuable, deals? 

While legacy publishers may have a checkered history with ad tech, some believe they may be in the market for smaller acquisitions to build their own. “I think the blockbuster acquisitions [of $500 million-plus] may be a thing of last year,” added O’Kane. “So, maybe we won’t see big ad server acquisitions, but we could see them in the market for tools that can help with first-party data aggregation.”

Ana Milicevic, co-founder, and principal at consultancy firm Sparrow Digital Advisers agreed with O’Kane’s assertion that the ad-funded internet is reverting back to a series of mini walled gardens. She pointed to two of 2021’s “lateral deals” — Microsoft purchasing Xandr from AT&T, and AppLovin acquiring MoPub from Twitter — as prime examples of this.

“Here you take an asset from one company, and you migrate it somewhere else where it makes a little more sense and then you make a new value proposition on top of that,” she said suggesting that Microsoft could look to utilize Xandr as the monetization platform for its string of media properties.

‘Under-explored’ deals 

Although, as 2022 kicks into gear, she tipped smaller companies that have brought a new perspective in emergent, or relatively “forgotten” areas, as potential acquisition targets with companies that have innovated in campaign optimization or emergent platforms as potential targets for buyers.

“There’s a lot of M&A to be done,” she added. “I’m very bullish on under-explored areas such as digital out-of-home and those that can help with automation in narrow-cast advertising such as podcasts, and the same goes for those that can help with sponsorship of email newsletters.

In addition, she cited the creative optimization space as a potential area for M&A in the space, pointing to Celtra’s purchase by private equity outfit Symphony Technology Group in late 2021 as an example.

“Look at areas such as automated creative testing … this has been a very forgotten arena for a while” added Milicevic. “I just think there’s a few of the leading players in a load of those categories that haven’t been challenged in a while, and I think we’re going to see a lot of activity in those areas.“

Of course, then there’s CTV …

And that’s not to forget the rise of CTV, a sector of the industry that kept investment bankers busy in 2021 and will likely occupy the time of M&A lawyers in 2022, but at a (slightly) diminished rate, according to some.

For evidence of just how hot a ticket CTV is, we need only look at how newly minted public ad tech companies made it a priority last year. Outbrain purchased Video Intelligence for $55 million, while measurement rivals DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science respectively purchased Openslate ($150 million) and Publica ($220 million) within months of their IPOs.

Speaking with Digiday last year, Elgin Thompson, managing director, technology investment banking at JMP Securities, recounted how CTV is the “number one topic in ad tech right now.” Companies that can provide advertisers with holistic measurement of the ROI of their CTV spend will prove attractive, added Thompson, tipping outfits such as Pixability and Zefr as potential acquisition candidates.

“These companies need the full stack to help advertisers identify the metrics and goals then help them craft their story,” he said, “that’s a theme that the market is paying attention to.”

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Check out the shopping experience at Amazon’s new retail clothing store

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Check out the shopping experience at Amazon’s new retail clothing store

Amazon does very well with its online clothing sales, but physical clothes stores still sweep up most of the business.

Keen as ever for a piece of the pie, the e-commerce giant has unveiled plans for its first-ever retail clothing store for men and women, selling garments, shoes, and accessories from well-known brands as well as emerging designers.

The 30,000-square-foot brick-and-mortar store will open at The Americana at Brand — an upmarket shopping complex in Glendale, Los Angeles — later this year.

As you can see in the video below, Amazon Style stores will only have one sample of each item on the store floor. If you want to try something on, you simply use the Amazon Shopping app to scan its QR code, select the size and color, and it’ll be sent directly to the fitting room. Inside the fitting room you’ll find a large-screen tablet that lets you call for more colors or sizes.

You can also scan to buy and collect the item almost immediately from the pickup counter. Scanning items will also prompt Amazon’s algorithms to suggest similar items that you might like to try.

“Customers enjoy doing a mix of online and in-store shopping, and that’s no different in fashion,” Simoina Vasen, the managing director of Amazon Style, told CNN. “There’s so many great brands and designers, but discovering them isn’t always easy.”

Vasen also said Amazon Style will sell “everything from the $10 basic to the designer jeans to the $400 timeless piece” in a bid to meet “every budget and every price point.”

While Amazon made its name with online shopping, in recent years the company has explored the world of physical stores with a range of openings.

It started off with bookstores in 2015 before launching the first of many cashier-free Amazon Go stores that use cameras to track your purchases so you can simply grab and go without having to line up. But it didn’t stop there. Amazon Fresh grocery stores have been popping up in states across the country, while it also launched a store called Amazon 4-star selling products that have received high ratings on its online store.

It also acquired Whole Foods in a $13 billion deal 2017, and last year was reportedly looking into the idea of opening a chain of discount stores, though the pandemic apparently prompted the company to put the idea on hold.

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How to enable TPM 2.0 on your PC

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How to enable TPM 2.0 on your PC

One of the controversial requirements to run Windows 11 is a TPM 2.0 chip. This chip, usually found on your PC’s motherboard, is a security chip that handles encryption for your fingerprint, other biometric data, and even things like Windows BitLocker. It’s usually turned on by default on most PCs, and found in most modern systems purchased in the last few years.

Yet if you’re not sure if TPM 2.0 is turned on (usually the Windows 11 updater will check for you), you can check for it manually and then enable it in a few steps. Here’s how.

Windows 10's Security Menu.


Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

Check for TPM using the Windows Security App

Before diving into our guide, you might want to check for a TPM 2.0 chip on your PC. You can do this manually through the Windows 10 settings. This will let you know if you can continue with the Windows 11 install process.

Step 1: Open Windows 10 settings with Windows Key and I on your keyboard. Then go to Update and Security.

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Step 2: From Update and Security click Windows Security followed by Device Security and Security Processor Details. If you don’t see a Security Processor section on this screen, your TPM 2.0 chip might be disabled or unavailable. If you see a spec that’s lower than 2.0, then your device can’t run Windows 11.

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Windows 10's Security Options.


Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

Get to BIOS to enable TPM

Once you verify or confirm that you have a TPM 2.0 chip on your system, then you’ll need to get into your PC’s BIOS to enable it. You can do this directly through Windows without the need for a keyboard combination on boot. Here’s how.

Step 1: Go into Windows 10 Settings. Head to Update and Security, followed by Recovery and then Restart Now. Your system will restart.

Windows 10's Advanced Security Options Menu.


Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

Step 2: On the next screen, you’ll want to choose Troubleshoot, followed by Advanced Options and then UEFI Firmware Settings. Click on the Restart button, and this will boot your PC into the system BIOS to check on TPM 2.0.

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Dell's BIOS settings.


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Enable TPM 2.0 in the BIOS

Now that you’re in the System BIOS, you’ll want to look for a specific submenu. On most systems, the TPM settings can be found under settings labeled Advanced Security, Security, or Trusted Computing. Navigate to these menus using either the keyboard combinations listed on the screen or the mouse if your BIOS supports it.

If you’re unsure about which menu to get into, you can visit the links below. Each link will take you to a PC manufacturer’s page with guidance on how to enable TPM 2.0.

Step 1: Once you’re in the respective menu in the BIOS, you can check the box or flip the switch for one of the following options. Sometimes TPM 2.0 can be labeled differently as one of these options: Security Device, Security Device Support, TPM State, AMD fTPM switch, AMD PSP fTPM, Intel PTT, or Intel Platform Trust Technology.

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Step 2: If you’re not sure if you’re checking the right box for TPM 2.0 settings, then you might want to check with the support documents for the company that made your PC. We linked to some of those above.

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Step 3: Once you enable TPM 2.0, you can exit the BIOS using the commands listed at the bottom of the screen. Usually, the Esc key will do the trick, and you’ll be prompted to Save and Exit. Your system will then restart and boot you back into Windows.

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Now that you confirmed that your PC has a TPM 2.0 chip, you can proceed with the Windows 11 installation process. We have a guide on how you can do that, and another piece that explains the differences between Windows 10 and Windows 11.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4: What we want from the new foldable

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4: What we want from the new foldable

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has been my daily driver for a while now –and I love it. Unfolding it to get a bigger display still feels futuristic every time I do it. The cameras get the work done, and it is an amazing mobile device for productivity. But despite being the best of its kind, all things can use some improvement, and that’s the case for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 as well.

Here’s what I hope Samsung improves on with the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

A wider cover display … with a caveat

From left, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Oppo Find N open from the back.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Front displays on foldables are meant to get things done quickly, without having to go to the next step of unfolding the phone. For instance, replying to that message on WhatsApp, checking the time, swiping through notifications, and anything that requires little effort. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 flies through quick tasks on the slim 6.2-inch display — unless I have to quickly type something on it.

Typing on the cover display of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a troublesome task. Due to the slimness of the screen, you don’t get the usable width on the keyboard, which results in a lot of typos that end up frustrating me. Making the cover display wider solves the problem of typos, but also leads to a wider foldable display.

Based on my experience with the Oppo Find N, it might not be a good idea despite the usability improvement. The web is built to operate vertically. You scroll down on stuff, be it your Twitter feed, TikTok, Instagram Reels, reading on a browser, or anything else. Personally, I’ve yet to come across an app or a webpage where I prefer a wider aspect ratio to a taller one. I like the taller aspect ratio of the Fold 3 rather than the wider aspect ratio on the Find N.

If Samsung could shrink the size of the left bezel on the cover display and increase its width, while keeping the dimensions the same as the Galaxy Z Fold 3, I’ll be glad. If not, I’ll just unfold the display to type quick replies as I have been doing.

Longer-lasting battery and faster charging

Typing on the closed Galaxy Z Fold 3.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Fold 3 battery life is above average, but not the best. If you push it to the limits or have a busy day without access to Wi-Fi, it’ll drain the battery before you get to bed. And unfortunately, the fast-charging support is limited to 25 watts.

With Chinese smartphone manufacturers raising the bar on fast charging to a mind-boggling 120W, I hope to see the Galaxy Z Fold 4 offer up to 45W fast charging at least. I’m fine with a 4,400mAh battery if I get support for fast charging that can get my phone from 10% to 60% within 35 minutes or so. Samsung has done it before with the Galaxy S20 Ultra, so there’s no reason it can’t bring 45W fast-charging support to the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

An upgrade to 11W fast wireless charging would also be much appreciated.

Make it lighter

Galaxy Z Fold 3 outer display showing ParkyPrakhar Twitter.

The first thing you realize when you start using the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is its weight. Depending on how you hold the phone, your pinkie finger could feel strain when using it folded for longer durations. That shouldn’t be the case with any foldable. It unfolds! Use it that way.

A reduction in the current 271-gram would be a welcome change and provide some relief to people’s pinkie fingers. I have had no major issues with the weight on my current Fold 3, but a lighter model would just feel better in the hands.

Better app optimization

An open Galaxy Z Fold 3 with apps on the screen.
An open Galaxy Z Fold 3 with apps on the screen. Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

This one has much more to do with Android app developers than Samsung, but apps could definitely use some optimization. And by app optimization, I don’t mean a full-screen Instagram (although, you can do that in the Samsung Lab in Settings).

Apps like WhatsApp, which is used by billions of people, need to step things up. On the Galaxy Z Fold 3, if I’m clicking a photo from the app, it magnifies everything. The viewfinder doesn’t give you an accurate estimate of what your photo is going to look like. Everything is blown up and magnified – even on video calls! If the user at the other end is holding the smartphone at the usual distance, you’ll see a cropped version on the folding display.

I hope WhatsApp can push out an update that fixes things, especially when its sister app — Instagram — has it all figured out in the Stories section. Instagram Stories don’t crop or magnify your image in the viewfinder.

There’s a decent chance the situation will start to improve with Android 12L, but a lot still rides on app developers implementing these changes.

Creaseless folding display

A Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 device with the display turned off lying on some leaves.

The crease on the Fold 3 folding display is much like the notch on Apple devices – you stop noticing it after a while. However, it is still noticeable when there’s a dark background, especially when reading something on the Kindle app, which is a common use case for me. Despite the crease bothering me sometimes, I love reading on the Fold 3.

On the other hand, the Oppo Find N‘s foldable display doesn’t have a deep crease like the Fold, though that might change after long-term use. But out of the box, the Find N has a much more seamless foldable display that looks and feels more pleasant to use. I just wish Samsung could figure out a way to minimize the crease to make my reading experience more pleasant.

Better UDC selfie shooter on the inside

Galaxy Z Fold 3 on a pavement.

When Samsung debuted the 4MP under-display camera (UDC) on the Fold 3, it was making a huge bet by adding an innovative new feature while also sacrificing usability. It’s beautiful to have a 7.6-inch display without any cutout bothering you and makes full-screen content appear more thrilling.

However, the quality of the selfies taken from the UDC isn’t great, as we noted in our review. Fortunately, Samsung is likely already working on a next-gen UDC with better image quality output, and I hope it debuts on the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Built-in dock for S-Pen

Samsung introduced the capability of S-Pen support from its Note lineup to the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Galaxy Z Fold 3. However, both of them missed out on a huge functional design feature that the Note had – a place to keep the S-Pen. If the Galaxy S22 Ultra renders are anything to go by, Samsung is already working on a place you can slot the S Pen without needing to shell out for a special case. That’ll make the S22 Ultra feel much more like the presumably defunct Note series, while the Z Fold 4 could get this slot, too, and serve as a more effective note-taking slate.

When will Galaxy Z Fold 4 launch?

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 has largely replaced the Galaxy Note lineup, which used to serve as the second flagship series lineup for Samsung. Now, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is expected to launch alongside the Galaxy Z Flip 4 toward the end of 2022.

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