Ad Data Firm Standard Media Index Sold to Equity Investor GTCR

James Fennessy Standard Media Index
James Fennessy (Image credit: Standard Media Index)

Standard Media Index, which collects and analyzes advertising spending data, said that it has been acquired by private equity firm GTCR  and that James Fennessy is stepping down as SMI’s CEO.

The move comes at a time when money is pouring into companies in the data and ad tech businesses. Nielsen is being acquired by Elliott Investment Management for $16 billion and Goldman Sachs made a $325 million investment in, one of the companies looking to use big data to challenge Nielsen in the media measurement business.

GTCR is buying 100% of SMI through Dreamscape, another company in its portfolio. Dreamscape founder and CEO Scott Knoll was named CEO of SMI, with Fennessey becoming a member of Dreamscape’s board and a consultant to the company.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Founded in 1980, GTCR formed Dreamscape in 2020 with Knoll, David Hahn and Michael Iantosca. with plans to acquire companies and assets to become a leading marketing technology business.

“We see tremendous upside potential in SMI and its advertising software solutions,” said Craig Bondy, managing director and co-head of TMT at GTCR. “The company is well-positioned in the marketing and advertising industry with deep relationships with its partners and customers which have served it well. We believe that our investment, alongside the Dreamscape team, will provide the resources to expand SMI’s current product portfolio to address new markets and create fully integrated solutions for its customers.”

In April, GTCR and Dreamscape made an investment in SQAD, another company in the advertising data, analytics and media planning business. (SQAD collects data from advertisers, SMI sources its data from media buying agencies). As part of that transaction, SQAD CEO Mark Krigsman stepped down, with Knoll becoming SQAD’s CEO.

“SMI’s leading data and ad intelligence products provide clients with real-time information to help drive better strategies around spend, placement and yield optimization,” said Knoll, who was CEO of Integral Ad Science from 2011 to 2020. 

“With the proliferation of media channels and ad types, the insights that SMI can help provide are now an essential driver of media strategy. The company’s deep relationships with clients and agency partners are underpinned by its customer-centric approach and its commitment to innovation. The SMI team has built a truly unique offering and, together with our partners at GTCR, we believe there is an opportunity to further advance the platform and drive growth across the business,” said Kroll. 

SMI was co-founded by Sue Fennessy and Jane Ractliffe in 2009 in Australia and moved headquarters to New York in 2011. SMI gives the marketing industry a real-world view into advertising spend, ad revenue, media pricing and future-booked commitments that are used by networks, media agencies and advertisers in media mix models, competitive share of spend analyses and for setting pricing benchmarks.

“Today is an important milestone for the entire SMI team, our partners and our clients, as we look toward our next stage of growth,” said James Fennessy, who took over as CEO in 2016.

“This investment is a culmination of Sue’s vision for SMI and a testament to the dedication and professionalism of the SMI team that has enabled us to transform how transparent ad cost and spend data is used by the industry,” he said. “The goal of SMI has always been to form strategic relationships with the world’s leading data-driven companies by providing actionable advertising expenditure and pricing data to ultimately help improve decision making. It is through this core mission that we have grown to be a trusted global source of ad intelligence. This partnership with GTCR and Dreamscape is the next step in our journey and we are all very excited at the potential this new venture will deliver for our partners and customers.” ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.