Digital Media Solutions, Inc. (DMS) Q1 2022 Earnings Call Transcript

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Digital Media Solutions, Inc. (DMS -6.02%)
Q1 2022 Earnings Call
May 10, 2022, 5:00 p.m. ET


  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for attending today’s Digital Media Solutions first quarter 2022 earnings call. My name is Tia, and I will be your moderator for today’s call. [Operator instructions] I will now pass the conference over to your host, Tom Bock, executive vice president of corporate strategy and investment relations with Digital Media Solutions.

You may proceed.

Tom BockExecutive Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Investment Relations

Thank you for joining us to discuss DMS’ financial results for the first quarter of 2022. With me on the call are Joe Marinucci, co-founder and CEO; and Vasundara Srenivas, CFO. We posted our earnings announcement this afternoon in a press release and also on our Investor Relations website. By now, everyone should have access.

Before we begin, I would like to call your attention to our safe harbor provision for forward-looking statements in our financial results press release. The safe harbor provision identifies risk factors that may cause actual results to differ materially from the content of our forward-looking statements. For a more detailed description of the risk factors that may affect our results, including disclosure about the effect of the coronavirus pandemic, please refer to our financial results press release and our SEC filings. Also, during this call, management’s commentary will include non-GAAP financial measures.

Reconciliations between GAAP and non-GAAP financial measures for our reported results can be found in the tables of our financial results press release, which we have posted to our Investor Relations website at The additional financial and other information to be discussed on this call can also be found on our Investor Relations website. Now I’d like to turn the call over to Joe Marinucci, our CEO.

Joe MarinucciCo-Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Tom, and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our first quarter of 2022 earnings call. We posted our press release earlier this afternoon, and I am now happy to announce that thanks to our dynamic diversification, the scaled spend of our top clients, and our technology-enabled, data-first approach to digital performance advertising, we delivered a solid first quarter with growth across all of our key metrics. During the first quarter, we were very focused on revenue growth, variable marketing margin and gross margin, and we delivered on all lines.

Plus, despite increases in public company costs and significant wage inflation, we still delivered EBITDA on range. Our first quarter GAAP revenue of $109 million was up 13% year over year and was the most DMS has generated in any quarter ending March 31. Excluding the Crisp acquisition, the organic revenue growth rate was 5% and we’re happy with our gross margin and variable marketing margin, which came in at 29% and 35%, respectively. During the quarter, we generated adjusted EBITDA of $10.5 million or a margin of approximately 10%.

Vasundara Srenivas, our CFO, will be adding more details, and will also dig deeper into the numbers and go over our guidance for the second quarter and full year 2022 later in the call. During Q1, we delivered despite facing market volatility, which included slower-than-expected auto insurance recovery and difficulties in the senior health space. In fact, in the first quarter, our insurance revenue grew 22% versus Q1 2021, which is 8% on an organic basis. Insurance also contributed 60% of our total revenue, of which auto represented 60% and health came in at 29%.

Let’s quickly take a look at the volatility we’re facing within auto and health insurance. Auto insurance bid pricing bottomed out in Q4 and showed a solid increase in January before giving up some gains in February. We hoped that would be short term, but March and April remained soft. Why is this? Well, because some states have not yet approved insurance price increases for all carriers, so campaigns for certain advertiser clients have remained paused in those states.

And these regional pauses directly impact our gross profit as we must continue to run our campaigns nationwide. Given inflation and continued supply chain issues, it also appears loss ratios are continuing to decline. And as such, auto insurance rate increases will likely be needed across every state, likely multiple times throughout the year. This all means that while we are hoping to see a full auto insurance recovery by year end, we recognize it could take longer with a full recovery likely coming sometime inside 2023.

Furthermore, the auto insurance sector continues to cycle against tough comparisons versus the year-ago period. These comparisons should ease in the second half of the year as we begin to cycle against more comparable periods starting in late July 2021. Within health insurance, we saw solid linear growth on a comparable basis versus the year-ago period due to a combination of organic growth and accretive acquisitions that expanded our health insurance business, especially within Medicare. However, we see uncertainty on the horizon for health insurance, especially for this year’s Medicare AEP season.

Across the industry, customer churn is creating volatility due to declines in retention rates that led to lower LTVs. The ramifications within the broader health insurance ecosystem are still undetermined. Possibilities include consolidation, a higher degree of accountability on spend and ROI, or an increase in digital advertising as nonviable traditional channels are cut. In fact, to this last point, advertisers are already on record saying they are pulling back non-digital spend, including Direct Response TV, due to forward performance and reallocating that budget to the areas of digital advertising that have shown consistent ROI.

We believe DMS is well-positioned to take advantage of this spend. That said, the bottom line remains that currently the Medicare business is difficult to predict. And our full year estimates are seasonally weighted toward the second half of the year with the fourth quarter, the quarter that includes the Medicare open enrollment period, typically the strongest. So yes, there are headwinds within the auto and health insurance verticals.

That said, I want to reiterate the importance of our ability to remain dynamically diversified. We’re a technology-enabled data-driven business that’s both vertical-agnostic and channel-agnostic and we’ve demonstrated our ability to pivot with our publishers and advertiser partners toward the most viable current opportunities. This is across both channels and across verticals. It includes auto insurance, health insurance, e-commerce, tourism education, and consumer finance.

Likewise, we continue to win more wallet share from our top advertiser clients. Year over year, revenue from our top 20 clients was up 46% because these advertisers know that they can rely on us to help them achieve a strong return on asset. And we’re not just diversified within the verticals. We also have diversification of buyers within verticals.

For example, in addition to working directly with many of our nation’s property and casualty insurance providers, we’ve worked with a significant roster of agents, almost 6,500 in Q1 2022. And we just onboarded a large insurance provider that will be levering our solutions and technology to connect their agents with consumers that are actively shopping for insurance products. Therefore, we expect significant growth over the next 12 months to our already substantial insurance agent base. Lastly, our toolset including our first-party data asset, our proprietary technology, and our expansive media reach continues to help us be more efficient and more effective with our digital performance advertising solutions.

This toolset was key to us achieving our strong VMM of 35% during the past quarter. Our data technology and media reach are synchronized to help us, to help us better understand the intentions of consumers, including when they are shopping and what offers they want to see from our advertisers. To help us better engage and reengage high intent audiences with personalized offers that encourage action, to help us better support the retention efforts of our advertiser clients that are seeking solutions to reduce churn and improve lifetime value metrics. Activated by our proprietary technology, our data program is a key component to our growth as our data and technology enable us to deliver on the four Rs, right person, right offer, right place, and right time, to achieve gross margin efficiency for ourselves and better ROI for our advertisers.

To give more context on what our data asset is, we received over 1 billion consumer intent signals per month. Those consumer intent signals append our data asset, which at the end of last month included 240 million opted-in U.S. adults with as many as 1,100 data points per individual. Internally, we are expanding and refining the use of data signals, and we’re beginning to recognize consumer acquisition cost savings, both from targeting efficiency and from reduced cost of goods sold.

This ties back to comments I previously made about our variable marketing margin. Our data and technology help us match current consumer actions against prior consumer behaviors, which help us to better predict future consumer shopping patterns. And once again, this goes back to the four Rs, right person, right offer, right place, right time. Externally, we’re increasingly partnering with our strategic data providers, publisher partners, and advertiser clients to expand and leverage our data and technology to enhance advertising performance, including customer retention efforts.

These types of programs enhance performance and ROI for our publisher and advertiser partners, creating stickiness and scale. For example, with our consumer and tech signals activated, we can help advertise our clients know when their current customers are actively shopping around, so they can take action by messaging those customers to retain them. Given the current dynamics of the health and auto insurance verticals, customer retention is a main priority for many of our large advertiser clients. So we expect retention-focused monetization of our data signals to ramp up later this year and into 2023.

As you may have seen, we announced our acquisition of Traverse Data in a separate press release from our earnings release. We are very excited about this transaction because we believe the addition of the Traverse Data technology platform into our already meaningful proprietary tech stack will be strategically important for us. We’re not releasing financial details of the acquisition because it will have a negligible effect on the P&L of the company the size of DMS. What we expect from the acquisition of Traverse and the reason we’re excited about it is for Traverse to accelerate our use of data, both in terms of volume and our ability to execute on our data road map.

This ties back to the prior comments I made about the importance of efficient reactivation, reengagement and retention plus the Traverse acquisition includes an existing base of strategic advertiser and publisher partners actively subscribing to the power of signal activation for client nurturing and remarketing. This will complement and expand our current customer nurturing and remarketing strategies beyond just the current activation and media buying strategies we employ against our first-party data asset. And in conclusion, we continue to be optimistic about our business despite current headwinds and future uncertainties. We acknowledge that there are a lot of macro factors impacting our business that we do not control.

But our dynamic diversification continues to allow for growth. Retention rates for our top customers remain incredibly strong at 100% for our top 20 customers, demonstrating the efficacy of our solutions. Our data and technology are increasingly providing new opportunities to engage consumers, and we’re very focused on continuing to control and cut costs where we can to create efficiencies and help us continue to operate profitably. We believe the current headwinds we’re facing will subside later this year or early next year.

And because of that, we remain bullish on our 2023 and longer-term prospects as our total addressable market growth remained strong with a CAGR of 17%. Before turning it over to Vasundara to dig deeper into the financials, I want to offer a quick update on our strategic review. As previously discussed, in August of last year, we announced plans to evaluate strategic alternatives for DMS to further maximize shareholder value, and we were hoping to have an update for you today. However, we have still not finished this process, so I have nothing to share other than to state that we’re working toward the best result possible.

We appreciate your patience. And as soon as we are able to, we will provide updates. Now I’ll turn it over to DMS CFO, Vasundara Srenivas.

Vasundara SrenivasChief Financial Officer

Thank you, Joe. Hello, and thank you to everyone for joining us today. I will start off to give some color on our revenues. Reported GAAP revenue was $109 million, a record quarter, up 13% over the same quarter of last year.

Insurance, which accounted for approximately 60% of our total revenues in Q1, grew 22% over the first quarter of 2021. The breakdown of the insurance business was as follows: auto made up 60% of total insurance, health came in at 29%, followed by life at 7%, and home at 3%. As Joe said, dynamic diversification has remained important to us. Touching on other sectors, career and education, which was approximately 12% of our total revenue in Q1, grew 28% year over year driven by strong demand for our services as we continue to win wallet share.

E-commerce, which represented 13% of our total revenues was down 38% compared to the year-ago quarter. Fluctuations like this arise. We remain a dynamically diversified company, so we can quickly pivot with our advertiser clients and publisher partners toward the best opportunities. Consumer finance accounted for 10% of our total revenue and grew 90% in Q1 over the prior year’s quarter, driven by an uptick in consumers taking financing optionality as rates rise.

Likewise, higher market rates are increasing demand from lenders as they seek to expand their bio databases. For the first quarter, reported gross profit was $31 million, equating to a 29% margin, within the guidance range of 28% to 31%, and matching the 29% margin in Q1 2021. Variable marketing margin, or VMM, was 35%, compared to 32% in Q1 2021 and 36% in Q4 2021. During the quarter, we experienced headwinds from increased media costs throughout DMS across both our brand-direct and marketplace solutions.

However, our experience in media buying and of course, our strong data asset helped to mitigate some of these margin pressures. On a reported segment basis, excluding intercompany revenue, the Q1 Brand-Direct Solutions gross margin was 21%, compared to 27% in Q1 2021. And the Q1 marketplace solutions gross margin was 28% compared to 26% in Q1 2021. Technology solutions, which was formerly called other solutions, has primarily included our SaaS business, and going forward, will also include our Traverse acquisition.

This segment had a gross margin of 89%, contributing to our overall gross margin level. We are excited about the prospects of this segment. And as our SaaS-based revenues ramp up, we will have more to discuss on future earnings calls. Overall, gross margins were impacted by media cost as I mentioned, but also by wage inflation and the tight labor market, especially for our call centers, as well as Omicron resurgence in the first two months of the quarter, all resulting in very high call center staff attrition rates.

For operating expenses, our total operating expenses amounted to $37 million in the first quarter, an increase of $9 million year over year, driven in large part by acquisition-related expenses across several categories, including people costs, technology, and contingent consideration. While we are embracing an efficiency and cost-saving philosophy and continue to identify and resolve redundancies throughout the business, we are seeing the effects of inflation and the tight labor market alongside our professional services partners. What this means is that we are finding it more expensive and difficult to attract, develop and retain top talent, and we’re also being attracted by our professional services providers who are also seeing higher ranges and are in turn increasing their fees. We ended the quarter with a total headcount of 546 full-time equivalents.

Finally, on profitability. Our adjusted EBITDA in the quarter was $10.5 million or a margin of 10%, down $6 million versus the same quarter last year driven by a more moderate recovery than expected within auto insurance, platform distribution challenges with some of our partners and macroeconomic challenges from inflation, which are impacting us across several areas of the business, inclusive of operational expenses and media costs. Our net loss came in at $5 million versus a loss of $0.2 million in the same quarter last year. EPS came in at a loss of $0.09 compared to a breakeven on an EPS basis in Q1 2021.

Lastly, turning to the balance sheet and liquidity. We ended the quarter with $22 million in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities, down $5 million from the end of Q4, reflecting normal shift in working capital. Our total debt at quarter end was $220 million, and net of issuance costs, it was $218 million. As of quarter end, we had the full $50 million balance available to us on our revolving credit facility.

Our net leverage stood at 3.8 times at quarter end. As a reminder, our credit facility from last year put our leverage covenant at five times currently. So we feel that we have plenty of liquidity under our facility but of course, we are very mindful of our obligations given current volatility. As we look to the rest of 2022, we do not believe the current volatility and uncertainty are long-term factors for our business.

We are expecting auto insurance recovery, especially against weaker comps, likely dragging into 2022. Plus, we’re working closely with our health insurance clients to help them maximize their marketing spends during the non-enrollment period and are focused on being an important strategic partner for them as soon as AEP begins in Q4. Lastly, we anticipates solid demand across our other verticals, including education and consumer finance that should result in continued growth on the top line. However, health insurance revenues, a large part of our business in the back half of the year, are difficult to predict at this time.

So it is prudent for us to take a more conservative approach to forecasting for the time being. In addition, inflation is continuing to affect us. That we have to remain competitive on wages in a tight labor market is easy to see, but inflation also has impacted us in other areas of the business. This includes operational expenses, and as mentioned before, even spill over into media costs.

Lastly, even though COVID restrictions have eased, we have now battled several spikes that affected our business with Delta in late summer and early fall and then omicron in December to February. This pandemic still represents uncertainties with regards to a number of factors, including staffing for us and our publisher partners and advertiser clients. As for guidance, we currently feel comfortable in achieving our Q2 GAAP revenue range of $97 million to $100 million and we are lowering our full year 2022 range to $440 million to $450 million. These numbers include Traverse.

Please note that while the importance of Traverse for our data program is significant, its effects on our P&L in 2022 is de minimis. Despite a number of macro headwinds on our gross margin, our dynamic diversification remains key for us to be able to adjust and pivot quickly. As such, we remain comfortable with maintaining our previously discussed gross margin guidance range of 28% to 31% and a variable marketing margin range of 32% to 36% for both Q2 and full year 2022. Our current Q2 EBITDA forecast is $8 million to $10 million and our full year guidance range is adjusted down to $45 million to $50 million.

I would like to close by saying that longer term into 2023 and beyond, we see recovery in the areas that are currently challenged and we anticipate continued and significant growth opportunities for our business. With that, we thank you for your interest in DMS. And we will now open the lines for questions. Operator, please let our listeners know what they have to do to ask questions.

Questions & Answers:


Absolutely. [Operator instructions] The first question is from the line of Maria Ripps with Canaccord. You may proceed.

Maria RippsCanaccord Genuity — Analyst

Hey, thank you so much for taking my question. First, I just wanted to ask about the Traverse Data acquisition. Anything you can share maybe on the timing of the transaction and sort of the integration process? And you mentioned the impact on financials is sort of negligible this year. But is there any way to sort of think about potential synergies or efficiencies as a result of the acquisition?

Joe MarinucciCo-Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Maria, good afternoon. Good to speak to you again. So the timing of the acquisition has closed today, so that’s what it was announced today just prior to earnings. So this is pretty much happening real time in conjunction with the earnings call.

The way that we look at this is, and this is very much true, that the acquisition is basically — the impact is negligible, as Vasundara said during the earnings call. And it gives us — this acquisition gives us leverage on our research and development curve and has us meaningfully ahead of where we otherwise would have been with regards to continuing to develop our technology platform to better connect our first-party data asset with our media buying capabilities. So if you look at it from that perspective, we expect to have it fully integrated this year so that we can leverage the technology to better execute against what we’ve called the four Rs, putting the right offering in front on the right person in the right place at the right time. So closed today, got us a meaningful segment of our R&D development curve, will be integrated this year.

We expect to see, let’s call it, we’ve continually talked about the power of data in our ecosystems. So hopefully, meaningful impact in 2023 and beyond.

Maria RippsCanaccord Genuity — Analyst

Got it. That’s helpful. And, Joe, you mentioned sort of some uncertainty within health. Sort of as you look to Q4 this year, are there any sort of areas of investments that you think you may need to sort of undertake to maintain maybe strength in health and maybe to strengthen that vertical? So anything specific to call out regarding Crisp or your Protect Medicare agency?

Joe MarinucciCo-Founder and Chief Executive Officer

So there certainly is cyclicality or seasonality in the business now with — if you look at the Q1 period, insurance was 60% of the business, and of that, auto was — property and casualty with 60% but health was 29%. So health has moved up meaningfully. As we look further out the year, Vasundara did talk about some of the uncertainties in health. So there’s a lot going on there in terms of, right now, we’re not in an enrollment period.

So marketing dollars has been pulled back because profitability has changed as opposed to when you’re in the enrollment period and we expect it to be a very significant ramp into the enrollment period. And as has been indicated and as was cited on the earnings call, those advertisers are expecting a higher degree of accountability on their spend and greater ROI. And the indication is other channels are going to be phased out and we likely should see an increase in digital advertising, but there’s a lot of distance between now and the enrollment period, and there is a significant ramp-up that occurs toward the end of Q3. So how we can be best positioned to take advantage of that is to continue to leverage the toolbox of top, which is the technology-enabled data asset, which we access via our proprietary technology, which connects us with our media reach, and tech data leads today is connected to media via technology.

And the best example I could show you this is why we had a good first quarter. If you look at our variable marketing margin, we previously talked about VMM ranges up to 36%. We’ve indicated a range of 32% to 36% in Q1. Our VMM was 35.3%, basically top of the range, and that’s because we’re able to continue to be competitively differentiated as a result of the data assets.

So we just need to continue to leverage that as our North Star, move forward, everything that we do starts data first, and that’s what leads to the VMM. And then behind that, although we don’t control what we don’t control, so the macro we don’t control, obviously. And there’s a lot of variability there, volatility. We do control how we’re able to leverage that data asset, and we do control a lot of the costs that we have internally.

So as Vasundara said, we’re very focused on efficiency and maintaining a cost structure that benefits the business. And to that point, we do convert meaningful EBITDA and we have a high free cash flow conversion rate of that EBITDA.

Maria RippsCanaccord Genuity — Analyst

Got it. Thank you very much for the color.

Joe MarinucciCo-Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. You’re welcome.


Thank you. Next question is from the line of Rob Shapiro with Singular Research. You may proceed.

Rob ShapiroSingular Research — Analyst

Hey, can you talk about if there are any verticals which you currently don’t have big problems in, which could be a good opportunity for you?

Joe MarinucciCo-Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Rob, good afternoon. Good to have you on the call. So look, I mean, dynamic diversification, we talked about it on the Q4 call and Q1. It continues to win the day for us.

We have significant diversification within all parts of our business. We’re diversified even inside of the different verticals and then we’re diversified in categories. So we look at it — I guess the answer to your question is yes, but we look at it as growing inside of the different verticals and categories that we’re already in because we believe in dynamic diversification. So if you look at insurance and even take a look into property and casualty, we have diversification in the buyers there.

So you look at the enterprise clients which we work with directly. And then underneath the enterprise clients, you have the SMBs, the independent insurance agents. And as mentioned on the earnings call, we have — in fact, I don’t think I went into this on the earnings call, but we currently have about 6,500 independent agents on the platform and we just brought on a new major carrier, and we expect, as a result of that, to see significant growth in that agent base, which against the enterprise clients, gives us nice diversification because the agents, regardless of the headwinds, they need to write policies as they’re dealing with churn issue, so it represents opportunity for us to grow. So dynamic diversification for us continues throughout the day, and because the business can move and it’s agile, it’s dynamically diversified from a vertical perspective and it’s dynamically diversified from a channel perspective, we’re looking at opportunities inside of insurance, e-commerce, consumer finance, and education.

And we get into what’s called the subcategories like I just went into where we see pockets, like inside of our agent base that we have, where we can add a new carrier, add new agents as a result of that and thus see significant growth. So that’s how we’re looking at it, and we’re pretty excited about that.

Rob ShapiroSingular Research — Analyst

OK. Thank you.


[Operator signoff]

Duration: 31 minutes

Call participants:

Tom BockExecutive Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Investment Relations

Joe MarinucciCo-Founder and Chief Executive Officer

Vasundara SrenivasChief Financial Officer

Maria RippsCanaccord Genuity — Analyst

Rob ShapiroSingular Research — Analyst

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