Playbuzz Taps Walt Disney For $15 Million Strategic Investment

PlayBuzz-fundingPlaybuzz, a creation platform for quizzes, polls, trivia, slideshows and videos, raised a $15 million strategic investment Thursday. Saban Ventures, an existing investor in Playbuzz, led the investment, which included participation from Walt Disney Co.

Playbuzz’s CEO and co-founder, Shaul Olmert, said the company was looking for “potential partners as well as investors,” but would not say if Disney is a current customer.

After Playbuzz’s $16 million Series B round one year ago, the company rolled out a sponsored content offering. The additional strategic funding will help Playbuzz to continue to scale that offering – and the Disney name will lend credibility.

Brands such as Ford, Avon, Pizza Hut and American Express have used Playbuzz’s sponsored content offering, which is unusual because it’s self-serve. Brands create the content, and then pay a cost per engagement to distribute it. If native advertising is normally “high-touch, high-rate, we are trying to make it low-touch, high-rate,” Olmert said.

The company employs 100 people, mostly engineers, and just hired its first salesperson in Q4, Olmert said.

Brands running self-serve sponsored content campaigns receive bolstered analytics and insights. They can figure out which slide or question people lingered on, or which one led a user to bounce. Eventually, Playbuzz will roll out user targeting for the posts.

Playbuzz sees both agencies and brands using the self-serve platform. In the US, it’s more likely for brands to go direct, a shift Olmert sees driven by brands wanting to “own interactions with consumers,” as they do on social media, as well as an increased focus on campaigns’ effectiveness.

More broadly, Playbuzz taps into a trend where advertisers focus on the web’s most precious commodity: attention. That often means embracing content over banner ads, and platforms over individual publisher sites.

Individual publishers, though, share revenue when they opt into receiving these sponsored posts. Olmert said Playbuzz’s pricing is premium, more on the “Vice, Vox, BuzzFeed” end of the spectrum. That offers a boost for publishers running Playbuzz’s sponsored content and receiving a cut of that revenue.

The investment in Playbuzz comes at a time when many in the industry are having difficulty getting funding. But because this investment was strategic and didn’t come from venture capitalists, it didn’t quite fit into that bucket, Olmert said. He suspects Playbuzz also had an easier go because it is in high-growth mode.

But other companies that aren’t in growth mode have had a harder time, often because they raised a lot of money at inflated valuations and terms that favor VCs and not employee shareholders.

“In 2016, we will see a lot of unicorns getting chopped,” Olmert said.

The latest funding brings Playbuzz’s total to $34 million.

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