A Closer Look at Two Companies Poised to Benefit from the Growing Digital Advertising Market

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Written By Elizabeth Monroe

The digital advertising market, worth $172 billion and growing at a 15% CAGR underscores the importance of maximizing Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS). Ad verification technology plays a crucial role in this optimization, preventing ad budgets from being wasted on fraudulent or ineffective inventory.

Among the key players in this field are Integral Ad Science (IAS) and DoubleVerify (DV), both offering similar services but with a notable valuation disparity. Despite having similar business models and financial profiles, IAS trades at a 45% discount to DV.

This discrepancy, given the companies’ fundamentals, suggests that IAS could offer superior returns from its current share price.

Business Models and Product Offerings

IAS and DV have nearly identical business models, offering products aimed at solving the same challenges for advertisers and publishers. Both companies provide pre-bid solutions like avoidance and targeting technologies.

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IAS’s Context Control and DV’s ABS help advertisers avoid undesirable ad placements due to fraud, lack of visibility, or unsuitable content. Additionally, both companies leverage contextual data points for targeted advertising, integrating seamlessly with DSPs.

Post-bid, both firms focus on measurement/attention and supply path optimization. IAS’s Quality Impression and DV’s Authentic Ad ensure ad viewability, absence of fraud, appropriateness, and precise targeting.

Their supply path optimization tools—IAS’s Total Visibility and DV’s Programmatic Analytics—identify the most effective and high-quality digital ad supply sources. The similarities in their product suites highlight their comparable value propositions.

Financial Performance and Market Sensitivity

The advertising industry is cyclical, with ad budgets increasing during economic booms and decreasing during downturns. The recent challenging macroeconomic environment has impacted both IAS and DV’s revenue growth and margins.

While both companies maintain gross margins above 75%, they have experienced a decline from the 80%+ margins seen in 2021, primarily due to increased revenue sharing with DSP partners.

At the EBITDA level, DV has managed to expand its margin from 12% to 19% over the past three years, stabilizing around 20% recently. Conversely, IAS has seen pressure since Q2 2023, with its EBITDA margin dropping to approximately 10%.

Stock-based compensation (SBC) is a significant cost for both companies, impacting profitability. IAS’s SBC almost doubled in 2023, but management expects a reduction in 2024, potentially improving its EBITDA margin.

Cash Flow and Analyst Sentiment

Despite declining EBITDA margins, both companies show robust growth in cash flow from operations due to their asset-light business models, maintaining healthy cash balances. However, their share prices have declined significantly recently, with DV down 49% and IAS down 32% year-to-date.

Despite this, analysts remain bullish, with median target prices implying significant upside for both stocks. For IAS, recent price targets from major firms suggest a substantial buffer for healthy returns.

Valuation and Investment Potential

Despite DV’s slightly larger size and faster recent growth rates, IAS’s consistent mid-teens revenue growth and projected EBITDA margin north of 30% suggest it is undervalued. IAS trades at a significant discount to DV across various valuation metrics, including a 32% discount on the sales multiple and a 74% discount on the PEG ratio.

Given IAS’s growth trajectory and profitability, its current valuation appears excessively conservative. Successful execution of its business plan could lead to significant returns, potentially rallying IAS to $12.00 within the next twelve months, with further upside as its valuation converges towards DV’s.

Risks and Uncertainties

Key risks include economic sensitivity, which could impact advertising spend during downturns. However, IAS’s essential ad verification technologies mitigate this risk by helping advertisers optimize ROAS.

Credits: DepositPhotos

The competitive landscape, primarily a two-horse race with DV, limits the risk of new entrants significantly disrupting the market. Despite potential competitive pressures, both companies are likely to maintain rational pricing strategies to preserve margins.

In conclusion, IAS presents an attractive investment opportunity due to its substantial discount relative to DV, comparable fundamentals, and promising growth profile. Successful execution of its business plan and eventual multiple convergence could unlock significant value, making IAS a compelling buy at its current share price.


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