Oracle snaffles 'don't seat us next to that smelly brand' Brit adtech firm Grapeshot

Acquisition for undisclosed sum latest in Big Red's foray into marketing

Oracle has bought a UK biz that claims to help firms avoid putting their ads next to dodgy images or content – just as the marketing tech industry faces increased scrutiny and uncertainty.

The acquisition of Cambridge-based Grapeshot, which in 2016 had a turnover of £9m but operating losses of almost £2m, comes amid ad industry fears that tougher privacy laws will make programmatic advertising more difficult, not to mention growing public concern over profiling.

Oracle quietly announced the buyout – sum undisclosed – on its M&A pages, without the usual accompanying press statement. It said the deal would "close the loop" in its marketing offerings, having acquired ad-tracking biz Moat almost a year ago to the day.

Grapeshot's tech is sold as a way of ensuring adverts are placed in the desired context online to "avoid unsafe content that will damage brand equity".

This is because it's not just what your ad says, but where it is. Beyond simply needing to reach the right people, companies don't want to end up touting their wares next to an article slamming their brand – or risk association with right-wing loons or dodgy pictures of kids.

In contrast to standard programmatic advertising tech, Grapeshot's product allows punters to set brand-specific keywords or phrases and block on a page basis, rather than domain – and to do this in real-time so it can respond to breaking news. And, unlike Google's AdSense, Grapeshot works across multiple platforms.

Big Red said the tech will be brought into the Oracle Data Cloud as part of its audiences and measurement portfolio, lest we forget the software company is trying to beef up its data analytics and martech business.

Oracle bigged up Grapeshot's 5,000-strong customer base and its use on more than 38 billion programmatic ad impressions a month – company accounts show that most of its business is generated in the States.

According to Grapeshot's latest filing (PDF) on Companies House, for the year ended 31 December 2016, it had a turnover of £6.15m in the US, up from £2.02m in the previous year.

In the UK, turnover was £1.89m, down from £2.14m in 2015; Europe and the rest of the world saw £1m in 2016, up from £858,000 in 2015.

However, despite an overall turnover boost of 80 per cent in the fiscal – up to £9m – the firm's £8m gross profit was wiped out with a £9.7m spend on admin expenses.

That amounted to an operating loss of £1.7m, wider than the £1.34m operating loss in the prior year. ®

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