Esko acquires MediaBeacon

News broke yesterday that artwork and packaging management company, Esko, will acquire DAM vendor MediaBeacon. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

An Intriguing Acquisition

This is the most intriguing acquisition in the DAM industry in several years, which has been otherwise sleepy since Shutterstock’s acquisition of WebDAM (merely a blip) and NorthPlains’ acquisition Xinet and Vyre several years ago.

Unlike the North Plains acquisitions, however, Esko’s acquiring MediaBeacon represents little to no technological functional overlap: the core technologies of artwork and packaging management software are very different from that of DAM software. In this case, a true case of two specialized product lines coming together, the whole has the potential to be greater than the sum of its parts. But it will require some fancy calculus, not just simple arithmetic.

MediaBeacon Past and Future

Under company founder Jason Bright, MediaBeacon has been something of an industry darling for the last decade, pioneering many aspects of DAM software that are now commonplace, such as embedded metadata, XMP support, and widget-based, HTML5, role-driven interfaces. Where MediaBeacon has always faltered was in meeting the services demand of the rapid adoption of the product (consult our DAM evaluation report for more details).

MediaBeacon’s new Managing Director, Brett Robertson (coming from Esko’s parent company, Danaher), will now assume operations of MediaBeacon, so Bright can focus on his original role as CTO. Robertson will have his work cut out for him: MediaBeacon’s adoption has been broad over the past five years in particular, and with the inevitable cross-selling of the DAM into Esko’s global network of artwork and packaging customers, the demand will no doubt increase.

Interpreting the Acquisition

We'll have more to say about this in our DAM research stream, but for now, a few observations about the acquisition:

— As many of our large CPG research subscribers will confirm, there’s an increasing demand to integrate packaging and artwork management tools with DAM technology, for a clear, end-to-end workflow from brand management and digital marketing to the package on the shelf at the point of sale. Esko’s main competitor, Schawk!, has little to show as far as DAM partnerships, let alone tangible integration use cases, so this will affect the competition at the top end of that market, as well.

 — Jason Bright claims to already have a roadmap that fits MediaBeacon’s technology neatly into the Esko stack. Note that with every acquisition, real integration take time, though MediaBeacon has been known to be very aggressive here. There’s also good technological compatibility among the technologies: Java and JSP are the foundation of both.

— MediaBeacon will still be sold separately, not just as a component of the Esko suite.

— There’s a large potential ecosystem of channel partners here, along with existing firms like Cognizant and IBM, Esko’s integrators will also get trained up to deliver MediaBeacon services, with the goal of accelerating adoption of both products.  But you should be cautious here: an Esko partner doth not a MediaBeacon specialist make.

Who Really Benefits

As I see it, there’s a bigger potential upside here for Esko customers than MediaBeacon licensees. Companies that manage printing and packaging can reap huge benefits from the addition of a DAM. The opposite is not the case for many of MediaBeacon’s customers, many of whom do not create packaging of any kind. They may find that MediaBeacon’s future enhancements are very focused on CPG use cases, and a little less on industries like media, entertainment, and others.

We've conducted extensive research about how other acquisitions in DAM have changed both the acquired and the acquiring companies, and in particular, how they affect you, the buyer or implementer. It's all in the most current version of our research: for more details, look here.

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