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CJ’s Perlu Acquisition is a Bet That Marketing Budgets are Converging.

Jan 25, 2023 by Martech Record

CJ's Perlu Acquisition is a bet that marketing budgets are converging.

Yesterday, CJ announced its acquisition of Perlu, an influencer agency & network based in Syracuse, NY. According to the company, Perlu will be integrated into the CJ Influence offering, which includes global content creators and CJ account teams that work to drive brand performance. In turn, CJ’s performance technology will serve as the commerce foundation of the Perlu solution.

Acquiring a deeper bench on the service side and access to a network of influencers indicates that CJ is tapping into a broader marketing budget that just affiliate. As content and commerce continue to collide, we are going to see more overlap in the service space. Recent focus has been on how PR affiliate agencies are competing for budgets more often. But quietly, affiliate agencies like Acceleration Partners and GEn3 have added influencer teams. Applying CJ's scale to this dynamic accelerates this trend.

Overall this acquisitions plays well to CJs strengths, bolstering their service team to ensure they can manage a breadth of budgets while continuing the ensure access to whichever content creators provide a return for their clients.

CJ is not alone in making acquisitions in the influencer space; Impact acquired influencer network Activate in 2020. CJ’s strategy here seems to be driven by a desire to deliver a combination of tech and services.

The acquisition is indicates that the pace of M&A in the affiliate space continues despite market headwinds. Commenting on the acquisition JEGI-Clarity Managing Director Robert Bernstein said, “CJ is a strategic acquirer in the industry and recognizes that many influencers attract high-intent audiences who want trustworthy advice from authorities. Brands and solution providers recognize that younger generations are looking to venues like TikTok when they think about making a purchase. Influencers play a key role in discovery, consideration, and conversions, especially for younger customers.”

The acquisition announcement quotes CJ CEO Mayur Kshetramade on a shared philosophy between the companies. “Perlu’s approach is resonant with our ecosystem and ethos—we work hard to find the 'win-win-win'—a win for brand advertisers, a win for publishers, and by that, a win for their consumers. Perlu does the same for influencers, brands, and their audiences. We're thrilled to bring Perlu into CJ to continue to elevate our content creators' performance within our CJ Influence offering, now including Perlu.”

The connection between the affiliate and influencer spaces has grown gradually closer over the past several years. In the early days, many leading affiliate networks and platforms formed partnerships with influencer networks. In most of these alliances, commerce data was integrated into the influencer toolset via affiliate network APIs.

As with many such “alliances,” the level of integration varied significantly. But CJ’s acquisition indicates on the advertisers side there is demand for a single set of services to manage both influencer and affiliate.

Influencer toolsets and affiliate platforms differ in what they bring to advertisers and the data they collect. Uniting the capabilities marries the simplicity and usability of the influencer tools and their top-of-funnel metrics measurement with the affiliate world's sales performance and payments capabilities. It also reflects marketers’ growing interest in measurable outcomes at all stages of the buying journey -- not just the moments immediately before a transaction.

Perlu will become part of the extensive influencer capabilities offered by CJ, which, in addition to its homegrown toolset, has a strategic alliance with Creator IQ and a global distribution network via alliances with Like to Know It, Magic Links, Find Your influence, and others.

Perlu’s model is intended to offer unique strengths for both brands and creators in the crowded influencer network and management arena. The platform emphasizes engaged and active members who participate frequently and respond quickly to brand programs and invitations. In addition to access to a marketplace of merchant offers, Perlu influencers have tools and venues to put their best foot forward in representing themselves to the brand community. They also have the tools to collaborate with one another, creating additional value in the community.