Kara Swisher

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Exclusive: Efficient Frontier Buys Context Optional for $50 Million

Online performance marketing firm Efficient Frontier is acquiring San Francisco-based social marketing software and services start-up Context Optional, the company said.

While terms of the deal were not revealed, sources said the price was $50 million.

The purchase of Context Optional is the first acquisition for Efficient Frontier, which has grown from a start-up that focused solely on search engine marketing to now including display and social media campaigns.

The move is a significant sign, said Efficient Frontier CEO David Karnstedt, that social has become a key part of the advertising ecosystem and an end-to-end solution is important to marketers.

With the purchase, for example, he said advertisers will be able to run Facebook ads all the way through to managing their brand’s fan page and help with both acquisition and retention.

“Our heritage is that we were early in optimizing search engine advertising for clients, so we wanted to expand our efforts exponentially with Context Optional, since social is different than search,” said Karnstedt in an interview yesterday with BoomTown. “We want to help advertisers interested in social media keep engaged and regularly returning customers.”

Context Optional was founded in 2006 and competes with other start-ups, such as Buddy Media, Involver and Vitrue.

Here is the official press release from Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Efficient Frontier:

Efficient Frontier Acquires Context Optional to Create the First Comprehensive Solution for Social Media Marketing

Unites Leading Advertising and Page Management Platforms to Maximize Social Marketing Impact

Sunnyvale, Calif.–May 4, 2011–Efficient Frontier, a leading global performance marketing company, today announced that the company has acquired Context Optional, a leader in enterprise social marketing solutions. The acquisition expands Efficient Frontier’s social media offering which will combine the company’s advertising campaign management and optimization with Context Optional’s page management platform. This marks the first unified solution for managing and optimizing Facebook fan acquisition through to fan retention and engagement. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are excited to offer marketers a complete solution for capitalizing on the growing social marketing opportunity across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn,” said David Karnstedt, Efficient Frontier’s CEO. “Social media marketing is more than just the initial contact with the customer and requires both compelling experiences and an ongoing dialog to realize the full potential of the interaction. The acquisition of Context Optional will create a unified platform for marketers to manage all of their social media touch points with brand enthusiasts.”

Efficient Frontier’s platform manages ad campaigns across search, display and social media, enabling customers to acquire audiences across multiple channels and optimize for better results. Context Optional’s Social Marketing Suite of products is an enterprise solution for brands to engage and retain audiences across Facebook and Twitter.

By aligning acquisition and engagement strategies, the combined company will be able to deliver a seamless and measurable user experience by integrating advertising and social marketing content. Brands will be able to more efficiently target audiences based on social engagement insights and continually refine their Facebook application experiences to better match their audiences’ interests. Efficient Frontier will also be able to provide integrated analytics to provide a more complete view of performance including virality.

“Efficient Frontier is a leader in digital marketing and our respective clients are asking us for a comprehensive solution to both acquire and build relationships with their customers,” said Kevin Barenblat, Context Optional’s Co-Founder and CEO. “This combination is recognition that social media is now indeed a powerful marketing channel in which brands are significantly investing. “We’re excited to be the first in the market with an integrated, enterprise solution to enable brands to effectively scale their investment in social.”


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik