Diving Deeper into Publicis Groupe's Acquisition of CitrusAd

The retail media sector continues to heat up with new consolidation after Publicis Groupe announced it was acquiring retail media technology company CitrusAd.
digital ads

CitrusAd is one of the most talked about names in retail media, thanks to its many recent deals with major retailers. In just the last few months, CitrusAd has inked deals with Hy-Vee, Petco, Gopuff and Target’s Roundel. The company has 4,000 brands and 70 of the world’s leading distributors on its platform, with its self-service interface being a favorite among retailers.

Publicis Groupe, which is based in France, is an advertising agency with four main sectors: communication, media, data and technology. Epsilon is the company’s data-driven marketing arm that operates as its own business with its own retail media technology. Under the acquisition, CitrusAd will sit as its own entity under Epsilon, which will power the business’s growth in the sector. 

Retail Leader caught up with Publicis Groupe and CitrusAd to learn more about the deal, how technology is evolving in the retail media advertising space and how brands and retailers should think about their advertising opportunities in an increasingly saturated media landscape.

Holistic Retail Media Shop


While the acquisition price was not disclosed, the deal appears to be a lucrative one for Publicis Groupe based on what numbers are available. CitrusAd, for one, boasts a conversion rate of 60%, among the highest in the retail media industry, the company said. And with the number of high-profile retailers already on its platform, Publicis Groupe’s Epsilon may be able to simply help the company’s momentum further along with its technology. 

“With Epsilon, Publicis and CitrusAd, we can deliver a new generation of identity-led retail media networks that deliver the full-funneled, integrated approach from acquisition and branding through to retention--on-site, off-site and in-store--and deliver that trusted measurement and accountability for online/offline transactions and reporting at the SKU level, which we don't think anybody can do today,” Epsilon’s Chief Product Officer Joe Doran told Retail Leader.

Specifically, Epsilon provides performance-based media advertising solutions utilizing its CORE ID technology. What’s special about the technology is that it doesn’t rely on third-party cookie data. The company has been investing in solutions to authenticate and gain consent from users since 2007, enabling advertising opportunities for personalized, targeted messaging that’s future-proofed from impending cookie regulations, Doran told Retail Leader.

As CitrusAd folds into Epsilon, shared values will help the two integrate and find new synergies. 

“We had a lot of the same core common principles about how we thought about retailers and brands would come together and exchange values between the brand, the retailer and the consumer to deliver the greatest outcomes for the brands and consumers,” Doran said. “We’re 100% aligned on performance media.”

As for why the Publicis is making an acquisition now, Doran says the retail media market is hot--with huge growth opportunities. One estimate suggests the $30 billion in current advertising investments will double over the next five years, with retail media taking on larger and larger chunks of that spend.

“We are very excited about the market demand we are seeing today,” Doran said. “As we were making investments in the area of retail media, we knew that we needed to go in and build a best-in-class on-site offering to couple with our off-site and in-store advertising capabilities, which we think are best in class anyway. When we looked at partners we could partner with, we found CitrusAd. Coupling their best-in-class on-site with our best-in-class off-site and in store advertising we think we are the only ones who can deliver a holistic one-stop shop in the market. And it's best to go do it now and deliver it now for marketers.”

Additionally, Doran sees Epsilon’s technology helping CitrusAd further what it already does. CitrusAd’s leadership, including Brad Moran, co-founder and CEO of CitrusAd, will stay on after the acquisition.

“Our goal is to make CitrusAd as successful and pour gas on the fire to let it grow faster,” Doran said. “We want them to continue building upon the brand and awareness they have with brands and retailers, and we want them to continue accelerating the adoption they are seeing among retailers and brands. We just want them to do more. We want to give them technology and services in what we have in Epsilon and the exposure of our clients to have them go faster and deliver this holistic offering to retailer brands.”

However, there are some unanswered questions about the retail media sector as it continues to emerge as a critical advertising space for brands and retailers. With so many retailers adding their own retail media platforms, it’s unknown if the space will become oversaturated, giving retailers too many options to place ads.

"Personally, I do not think it will become oversaturated," David Hasse, chief revenue and development officer at CitrusAd, told Retail Leader. "Retail media combined with CitrusAd technology and retailer first-party data is about creating efficiency and effectiveness. As soon as the platforms are critically analyzed on performance, it will become clear as to which technologies provide the most growth for brands and retailers. We are already seeing a clear gravitation and preference for our technology due to the performance it delivers and by expanding off-site through this acquisition we will continue to advance our platform. Additionally, if you think of retail media as modern age P.O.P. (point-of-purchase) advertising you will realize that it is simply a better way to reach relevant audiences without the waste. Every retailer and major brand has leveraged P.O.P. displays, signage and media in-store for decades, now the opportunity is to utilize the retailer's first party data to approach that in a more personalized manner right at the time of purchase."

Instead of seeing the rise in the number of platforms as a danger, Doran views the emerging space as an opportunity for brands and retailers to realize their own goals and investments in the space.

“This world can get complex,” he said. “[It’s] different from digital media, where you have 2,000+ sites to buy from. There will be a lot of fragmentation as it comes together, and [brands] need a holistic solution like what we have so a brand can think more holistically about their overall investment and think about who are the retail brands that matter [to them]. And to think about how [they] can make investments and do appropriate media planning or portfolio planning."


Editor's Note: A previous version of this article suggested Dollar Tree is a client of CitrusAd. Dollar Tree has partnered with Swiftly and Aki Technologies to support its retail media network. We regret the error.