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ChoiceStream Raises $7.5 Million To Support Sales And Ad Tech Build-Out

Eric-Bosco ChoicestreamChoiceStream, which began as a product recommendation engine before three years ago shifting to programmatic ad tech, has raised $7.5 million in Series B financing from Fred Alger Management.

The financing will help ChoiceStream grow out its sales capabilities, with the remainder going toward the build-out of its demand-side platform (DSP)  technology.

CEO Eric Bosco said he believes ChoiceStream’s roots in recommendations, namely its “intellectual property inherited from the personalization business,” gives the company an edge in the crowded DSP space.

The DSP is also designed to serve dynamic creative in real-time, for instance letting weather forecasts influence which products show up in the ads.

Technologies from ChoiceStream’s other assets, like its survey site, can also be applied to its DSP. For instance, Pollshare can be used to find hard-to-reach audiences. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts released coffee pods for Keurig machines and requested ChoiceStream  target Keurig owners – which is not typically captured through cookies.


Crosswise Is The New Cross-Screen Kid On The Block

SteveGlanzMultiscreen tracking company Crosswise, which on Thursday launched its cross-device identification solution, doesn’t care about buying media.

It doesn’t care about creating segments. Basically, Crosswise CEO and co-founder Steve Glanz doesn’t care if you’re a man or a woman, how old you are or where you live — at least not as isolated data points.

“We’re not creating profiles of users, we’re looking for connections between data points,” Glanz said. “We’re trying to solve the problem of being able to identify users across devices employing a statistical or probabilistic solution.”

While that might ring a bell for anyone familiar with cross-device ad tech companies like Tapad or Drawbridge, Glanz said Crosswise’s product differentiates since it’s a “data-only” solution that isn’t interested in direct agency or brand relationships.

Glanz said Crosswise competitors are both technology providers and perform media services, creating a conflict. Crosswise, which has raised $2 million from several VC sources since its August 2013 founding, is by contrast a pure-play technology company. It hands the fruits of its data tracking over to demand-side platforms (DSPs), which then work with agencies and brands to buy the right media.

“Tapad and Drawbridge are great companies, but they’re also basically competing with every DSP and retargeting company,” he said. “They license their platform to ad tech companies and also try to sell direct campaigns to agencies and advertisers at the same time."


Facebook Reports Q2, Mobile Grows To 62% Of Ad Revenue

q2-2014-fb-usethisFacebook reported second-quarter earnings on Thursday amid generally high expectations for the company's advertising business, especially as it pertains to mobile and video. Investors were not disappointed.

Facebook posted Q2 advertising revenue of $2.68 billion, a 67% increase from Q2 2013. Of that, mobile advertising is becoming increasingly important – it constituted 62% of Facebook’s total advertising revenue in Q2 2014, up from 41% in Q2 2013. Read the earnings release.

Ad prices spike, unlike Yahoo. On the company's earnings call, CFO David Ebersman said Facebook's ad volume fell during the quarter as a result of the rapid consumer shift to mobile (and, hence, news feed-only ad placements).

Meanwhile ad prices rose as well, driven by that very same shift to news feed inventory, which is more expensive. (Incidentally, it's exactly the opposite dynamic that Yahoo experienced in its most recent quarter; Yahoo's volume rose while CPMs fell.)

Ad prices are also rising for right rail inventory as Facebook pushes a redesign featuring more prominent ad formats within that real estate. COO Sheryl Sandberg added that these ads are getting higher engagement rates than their predecessors, and can be presumed to be more effective.

LinkedIn To Acquire Bizo, B2B Display Ad Platform, For $175M

BizoLinkedIn will buy Bizo, a B2B display ad platform, for $175 million in cash and stock, the companies said Tuesday.

"It's exciting for us to bring Bizo's expertise and technology into our ecosystem," said Deep Nishar, LinkedIn's SVP of product and user experience, in a statement. "Our ability to integrate their B2B solutions with our content marketing products will enable us to become the most effective platform for B2B marketers to engage professionals."

The acquisition will be funded through a combination of cash (90%) and LinkedIn stock (10%) and is expected to close in the third quarter of 2014.

Read LinkedIn's blog post and the press release.

LinkedIn is ramping up its marketing solutions. It hired longtime ad exec Penry Price as VP of marketing solutions, and recently outlined methods to monetize content with a premium business audience on its platform.

Bizo's acquisition should also come as no surprise. Founded in 2008 as a platform to enable B2B marketers to track and reach new business users, it's easy to see what made the company an attractive target this year. In Q4, Bizo cited revenue of $12.4 million at a $50 million run rate with media costs that average in the 35-40% range.

The company has also released numerous products and enhancements. Last fall, it launched Bizo for Marketing Automation, a product with a "multimillion dollar" trajectory, according to Bizo's CEO Russ Glass. Months later, Bizo released Multichannel Nurturing, a tool that promised marketers greater lead-gen capabilities across email, display and social advertising.


Centro Hires A CFO And Looks To Investors

shawn-riegseckerIt's hard times for late stage advertising technology companies. Many public and private investors are gloomy on ad tech, and older startups needing new funds lately find themselves forced to choose between unattractive options, such as going public or raising money at a lower valuation, a painful event sometimes referred to as a "down round."

These are problems Chicago-based agency workflow platform Centro, which hired Michael Bruns as CFO this week, has been blessed to avoid.

CEO Shawn Riegsecker said this is due to Centro’s relatively low cash requirements to date. The company's only investments have been a $22.5 million Series A round completed in 2011.

But Bruns’ hiring shows the company has its eye on its future cash needs.

Bruns is well versed in SaaS-based companies, after running finance for two such companies and selling one of them (ClearTrial) to Oracle in 2012. Oracle, of course, is one of the top four strategic buyers in the ad tech space, alongside Adobe, Salesforce and Google – a fact certainly not lost on Centro management.  The company's previous CFO, Leo Brubaker, was named chief operating officer last year but the company has only just found his replacement.  According to Riegsecker, the hire was time-consuming since Centro needed someone experienced in public capital markets as well as in private fundraising.


TubeMogul Prices IPO Shares Lower, Valuation Shrinks To $244M

tubemogul cashVideo demand-side platform TubeMogul priced the shares for its public offering Thursday, and the target price is significantly lower than the $11 to $13 per share the company previously specified. The company now expects to debut shares at a rock-bottom $7.00 to $8.00, according to an updated S-1.

The company had previously hoped to raise $93 million, but at the lower share price, it will more likely find itself raising around $47 million.

"TubeMogul will raise 38% less in proceeds than previously anticipated and will command a market cap of $244 million, down 38% from $394 million," said an item on "The amended filing also includes $5 million of insider buying from Trinity Ventures, adding to the $20 million indicated by Foundation Capital. Insiders now have plans to purchase 53% of the offering."

The change comes amid significant investor pessimism around technology stocks and ad tech companies in particular.


How Mondelēz Exec B. Bonin Bough Is Trying To Win The Data Arms Race

boninWhen B. Bonin Bough, the VP of global media and consumer engagement at Mondelēz International, took the stage Tuesday at the Cannes Lions festival, he proclaimed that he couldn’t see a reason why brands wouldn’t go completely programmatic – a sentiment he held even back in 2013.

In 2014, Mondelēz set the first stages of its plan into action by diving into a deal with video demand-side platform TubeMogul. Under the agreement, the CPG giant’s media agency MediaVest will execute buys, but Mondelēz will oversee the contract directly.

Bough spoke with AdExchanger Friday during the festival’s wind-down while business execs and PR staffers nursed blistering hangovers. Bough dove into deeper detail on what he expects from the TubeMogul deal, the value of transparency in media buying and why he needs to get really good at video games.


Twitter, Viacom And WPP Adapt To The Changing Face Of Content Consumption

cannes debateIn a wide-ranging panel at Cannes, CEOs Dick Costolo (Twitter), Philippe Dauman (Viacom) and Martin Sorrell (WPP) discussed the evolution of rich media consumption on mobile devices and why marketer investment in mobile video does not yet match consumer demand.

Sorrell, who opened the panel by stating WPP spends $750 million with Viacom (said Dauman: “Not enough.”) and $100 million with Twitter (up from $50 million last year), wondered about the latter's evolution, given how Twitter has built capabilities that go beyond its core communication service.

Twitter’s focus, Costolo explained, is on pushing rich media content into the platform, from video to ecommerce services.

The CEO clarified chatter from as far back as January that Twitter would integrate ecommerce services into its platform. “We think about commerce in terms of in-the-moment commerce,” he said. This method involves building ecommerce capabilities that manifest in real time depending on what a Twitter user is doing, talking about or seeing.


AppNexus Tries M&A, Mulls 2015 IPO

brian-okelley-2014The world's largest independent ad tech company broke character this week.

Before snatching up Paris-based ad viewability firm Alenty, as AdExchanger was first to report, AppNexus had been historically inclined to build rather than buy owing to its strong engineering culture. But that may be changing as bargains present themselves in the form of mature startups whose founders and investors are ready to sell.

Of course, to buy you need cash. CEO Brian O'Kelley confirmed to AdExchanger that AppNexus is talking with prospective investors about a new round. The Wall Street Journal previously reported that the amount could exceed $100 million and that Alibaba Group Holding is among the potential investors. If it materializes, the investment would precede a likely IPO that could come in 2015.

"There's no immediate incentive to put money in the business," O'Kelley said. "At the same time … it's attractive to have cash to do acquisitions like Alenty and grow the business globally."

O'Kelley spoke in depth about Alenty, viewability and investment dyamics.

AdExchanger: Why buy viewability technology now?

BRIAN O’KELLEY: Viewability is not a standard in other media. There's no guarantee that just because someone hung the international edition of The New York Times outside my door this morning that I saw the ads inside of it. It's exciting that in the online advertising world we can use technology to improve our ability to understand how users behave. That's what viewability is. It's a signal.


"Visual Ad Tech Company" WeSEE Eyes Video And US Expansion

ADRIANUser-generated photos and videos are a largely untapped resource for advertisers. The challenge is leveraging the inventory.

A few startups have offered up solutions: GumGum helped L'Oréal place ads on publisher sites based on the hair color of women in photos and Stipple lets consumers make purchases directly from an image.

British ad tech firm WeSEE is another company that has jumped into the fray with its image and video classification solutions. Its customers (WeSEE wouldn't disclose the exact amount) include Virgin Holidays, Avis, HP, Cathay Pacific and Intel. It also works with agency trading desks, like Omnicom’s Accuen.

Accuen UK, for instance, has incorporated WeSEE’s technology since January.

“We see (haha) them as a great complement to other contextual/semantic data providers,” said Edward Thomas, Accuen’s head of product. “Their image classification tech gives a different interpretation of page content, and thrives in image-heavy environments common to social media platforms.”

AdExchanger spoke with WeSEE’s co-founder and CMO, Adrian Moxley.