Datran Buys Skylist, Unites Database Firm, ESP

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Database marketing services firm Datran Media acquired e-mail service provider Skylist in yet another indication of the growing merger and acquisition activity in the online space.

The deal combines Datran's client list of JPMorgan Chase, AOL, Sprint Corp. and USA Today with Skylist e-mail customers like eDiets.com, babytobee.com and Boston.com. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"Most mergers of ESPs are about industry consolidation," said Sean O'Neal, chief marketing officer of Datran, New York. "But the strategy behind our merger with an e-mail service provider is to combine delivery and marketing, the two essential elements to building a solid product."

The Skylist acquisition follows the trend of database marketing firms investing in e-mail services companies. In the past few years, Merkle, Acxiom, Donnelley, Epsilon, Experian and Harte-Hanks have acquired e-mail marketing firms to let their clients integrate offline and online marketing databases to get a 360-degree view of their customers. The most recent acquisition was of Dynamics Direct by Alterian.

For Datran, the acquisition means dealing with a known quantity: It is a Skylist customer.

"We've been talking about this for years, but now is the time because the market today demands this integration," said Josh Baer, founder and CEO of Skylist, Austin, TX. "The market is hot right now."

AdLoyalty Is Key Focus

Mr. Baer, who assumes the chief technology officer post, will report to Datran's president, Matt Keiser. Skylist keeps its brand name and its Austin base.

Datran will focus on marketing and Skylist on the tech side. The big change will be the opening up of sales databases between the two systems.

The deal includes the release of adLoyalty, an integrated e-mail marketing customer relationship tool that combines acquisition, retention and loyalty solutions. This multilayered system aims to optimize intelligence and deliverability by aligning Skylist's StormPost delivery product with Datran's marketing engine and analytics.

AdLoyalty will be marketed as a one-stop shop for customers who want to acquire new customers and build relationships while having a back end in e-mail deliverability.

Mr. Baer called this kind of product ideal for big brands that have many sub-brands. For instance, it lets an umbrella company with 40 subsidiaries combine the information from all spheres of its enterprise. The parent company then can create a web comprising its entire portfolio for cross marketing.

As is expected with each merger, systems integration is a big issue to ensure uninterrupted service for clients.

"I thought that the biggest challenge would be the integration of the two systems, but we are already almost done," Mr. O'Neal said. "The real challenge has been keeping up with the orders. In the first 30 days we sold two packages to major global brands and six total."

In today's media-cluttered environment, e-mail marketers are challenged with curating information into relevant, personalized campaigns. Mr. O'Neal hopes that this merger will address these concerns for marketers and allow a dual level of sophistication.

"Looking forward, we will focus on the performance, marketing and advertising components of adLoyalty," he said.

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