Acuity Ads plans public offering on TSX Venture

Latest ad tech to make a move toward going public with a public offering

Acuity Ads CEO Tal Hayek speaks with journalist Amber Mac at DX3 in Toronto

Demand-side technology provider Acuity Ads is ramping up for a public listing on the TSX Venture at the end of this month, and has announced two executive hires to bolster its offering before the bell rings.

Raymond Reid, former managing director of Neo@Ogilvy Canada, will be joining as president of the newly formed AdScience division. Reid’s team will be dedicated to experimenting with new technology and business intelligence to improve Acuity’s products.

“The AdScience division was created to provide our brands and agencies with improved insights and measurement, and under Raymond’s leadership this area of the business will explode,” said Acuity CEO Tal Hayek in a release.

“I feel that Raymond is a visionary in the digital industry. His deep knowledge of the ecosystem, brand needs, knowledge of agencies and overall vision makes him the ideal person to run AdScience,” he added in an interview with Marketing.

Reid comes from a background in media agencies, having led Neo@Ogilvy’s Canadian operations and directed Starcom MediaVest Canada’s digital solutions group. He’s also worked on digital ad solutions at Alliance Atlantis, and on comScore’s Media Metrix audience measurement solution. He has twice been a finalist for Marketing‘s Digital Media Superstar of the Year.

Ashley Bast will be Acuity’s new vice-president of marketing, where he will develop communications and brand strategy for the company. Bast has been a CPG brand marketer for more than 15 years, working on brands like Dempster’s (Maple Leaf), Campbell’s Soup and Cover Girl (P&G). He’s been at the head of major CPG campaigns like the Canadian launch of Goldfish crackers and the Campbell’s soup red-and-white label reset.

Hayek said that Bast’s background in CPG “will help establish the organization as a trusted advisor to top brands and agencies.”

After working as a consultant with Acuity for the past year, Bast steps into the previously vacant role of vp marketing.

Reid and Bast complement two senior hires announced last month — Cathy Steiner as CFO and Funke Fabunmi as vice-president of ad operations. Steiner comes from a background as an investment banker and management consultant, while Fabunmi has handled ad ops at Olive Media, Corus Entertainment and Quebecor.

Tough times for tech stocks

Acuity said it plans to be trading on the TSX Venture before the end of the month if it can clear regulatory hurdles. TSXV is often called the “little brother” to the TSX, where emerging companies can trade publicly and eventually be graduated up to the larger exchange. The TSXV is dominated by resource and mining companies; Acuity will be one of only a handful of ad tech companies trading, along with Engagement Labs and iSign Media.

The public listing announcement comes amidst a downturn for ad tech companies on the NYSE and NASDAQ. Companies like Millennial Media and Rocket Fuel saw stock prices hit hard after Q1 earnings failed to meet analysts’ predictions. Some tech players like TubeMogul are still pushing ahead with IPOs this fall, while others like Turn and MediaMath are turning to large additional rounds of venture funding.

Acuity may be insulated from these market trends, as a much smaller company launching on a exchange dedicated to emerging players. The company currently has 50 staff, which makes it a fraction of the size of global competitors like Turn (350 employees) and Rocket Fuel (700 employees), but comparable to Canadian providers like EyeReturn and AdGear. Acuity’s financials aren’t yet available.

When asked what differentiates Acuity from other players in the programmatic space, Hayek pointed to the company’s focus on owned technology and ad quality. Acuity develops much of its trading and targeting technology in-house, and relies on a mix of proprietary and third-party solutions for brand safety and fraud prevention. Unlike some of the larger demand-side technology companies, Acuity’s focus is on full-service trading, which includes strategy consultation and campaign planning with agencies and advertisers.

Acuity declined to comment specifically on its plans to go public, citing regulatory scrutiny.

The initial headline of this article said Acuity was planning an initial public offering, but the company is pursuing another route to being listed on the TSXV. Further details were not available. The article has been updated.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed Raymond Reid’s new title as vice-president, instead of president. AD-Vantage regrets the error.

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