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Vungle has agreed to buy influencer marketing platform JetFuel for an undisclosed price.

The deal is the fourth acquisition that Vungle has made in the past seven months, and the first since it acquired playable ads firm TreSensa in May.

The San Francisco-based Vungle is creating a mobile performance marketing platform, and it believes that JetFuel can position it for the next generation of user acquisition by helping it reach audiences in the fast-growing creator economy, said CEO Jeremy Bondy in an interview with GamesBeat.

A changing market

JetFuel enables app developers and other advertisers to scale marketing campaigns across a network of over 15,000 fully verified influencers, with a combined reach of over 4 billion Instagram followers, 1.5 billion TikTok followers, and 100 million daily Snapchat views. Influencers started out as a cheaper alternative to paid user acquisition via advertising.

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“You have somebody who’s making an individual choice to tell the story of your brand in a really authentic way,” Bondy said. “And they’re using their own personal cachet and channel in order to tell that story. You’re not relying on this pure distribution algorithm across apps. It’s much, much more personalized. ”

Advertisers could cut deals with influencers to get them to hawk goods to their followers. And while influencers have become extremely, uh, influential, it’s hard to scale because it isn’t easy to cut deals with every single one of them.

That’s where JetFuel comes in, as it has made a platform to help automate the process of reaching influencers. As Vungle continues to expand the breadth of its mobile performance marketing platform, JetFuel enables Vungle to offer advertisers even greater reach in acquiring high-value users and the ability to target the increasingly valuable Gen Z market through engaging, influencer-owned viral content that drives action.

“This emerging and undeniably fast-growing influencer segment is increasing day by day, and it’s becoming more and more compelling,” Bondy said. “In our diligence, we found that every CEO of a gaming company that we talked to said that they had some form of influencer strategy, whether it be in the early stages or a mature team. And that directly ties back to our relevance within the overall gaming business. We started off just working with marketing and growth teams as a network. And then we expanded to data teams through AlgoLift, and then to game and product teams through GameRefinery, to design teams through TreSensa, and now to social teams through JetFuel.”

The global influencer market is expected to be worth $13.8 billion in 2021, up from $1.7 billion in 2016, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 52%, according to a 2021 report by the Influencer Marketing Hub. Advertisers continue to invest a larger share of their marketing budget in influencer marketing each year. JetFuel has innovated in this space by automating campaign management and execution, removing the need for the time-consuming manual work that is characteristic of traditional influencer marketing. The company charges advertisers on a cost-per-action (CPA) basis, ensuring that advertisers achieve measurable outcomes with high ROI. JetFuel also empowers influencers to create authentic, custom promotions that drive strong results.

JetFuel cofounders JJ Maxwell and Tim Lenardo.

Above: JetFuel cofounders JJ Maxwell and Tim Lenardo.

Image Credit: JetFuel/Vungle

“The growth is undeniable,” Bondy said. “It’s a 52% CAGR with no slowing down in sight.”

Bondy said that JetFuel has a forward-thinking vision that influencer platforms like JetFuel can reach Gen Z audiences that are normally hard for advertisers to reach through traditional means.

“They empower influencers on the creator side as well as advertisers,” Bondy said. “The company has only been around for three years, and they built this massive following. What we found natural about the fit is that everything they do is performance. Every single advertiser engagement is set up on a cost-per-action (CPA) basis. It’s pure performance and so it scales really nicely. We think the infusion of our advertiser base could turn this into the next Vungle.”

JetFuel provides tools for influencers to build their business.

“They empower the creator economy with offers, recommendations for how to build their stories so that they can market products effectively,” Bondy said. . They can even offer financial products down the road. And this really feeds the scalability and virality of it. There are incentives for creators to bring on other creators. So it has that snowball type of effect. We anticipate investing very, very heavily in the growth of this business.”

A shopping spree

This acquisition means that Vungle is still closer to its goal of creating mobile performance marketing platform that addresses the complete app growth cycle. Combined with GameRefinery, AlgoLift, and TreSensa, the Vungle platform provides a suite of tools, including game design and development, marketing, playable ads, and measurement.

Apple has driven this change with the modification to the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), which helps track users for ad targeting. Apple has prioritized privacy over ad targeting, so it’s getting a lot harder to acquire users for specialized games such as strategy. The first three acquisitions that Vungle did were dealing with that IDFA change in some way.

“What’s interesting about this one, as relates to IDFA, is that you have a direct relationship with the creator, which is analogous to AppLovin’s ownership of content, or could be depending upon how deep relationships we build with those creators,” Bondy said. “So I think that’s probably the most relevant connection point.”

How JetFuel works

CEO Tim Lenardo and JJ Maxwell, the cofounders, were app developers who previously built Boomerang.

JetFuel’s flagship influencer product, The Plug, offers a self-serve monetization for anyone with an online following and aims to be a comprehensive platform for influencer success. Simultaneously, JetFuel enables advertisers to scale influencer campaigns without time-consuming, manual work. JetFuel operates like a programmatic ad network, allowing advertisers to bid on results and optimize towards downstream metrics. To date, the company has delivered over 60 million app installs to it’s mobile partners and is the only influencer network ever recognized as a leading return on ad spend (ROAS) partner in AppsFlyer’s Performance Index.

Vungle wants to be the trusted guide for growth and engagement, transforming how people discover and experience apps. Mobile app and game developers partner with Vungle to monetize their apps through in-app ad experiences.

Advertisers depend on Vungle to reach, acquire, and retain high-value users worldwide. Its data-optimized ads run on over a billion unique devices to drive engagement and increase returns for publishers and advertisers ranging from indie studios to powerhouse brands, including Rovio, Pandora, and Microsoft. Bondy said the JetFuel team would move into Vungle’s office when the timing works out.

This acquisition brings Vungle to around 350 employees.

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