BT Thrives In Economic Downturn
In one example of how the recession has been kind to companies focused on behavioral targeting, AudienceScience earlier this week reported securing $20 million in venture capital funding from Silicon Valley firms Mohr, Davidow Ventures; Mayfield Fund; Meritech Capital Partners; and Integral Capital Partners.
Jeff Hirsch, the company's president and CEO, declined to disclose the name of the book on the nightstand at his Santa Barbara, Calif., home for fear it would provide too much insight into AudienceScience's product roadmap - but did say the company continues down a path of global growth.
AudienceScience's technology is currently deployed in 14 countries; the investment from the VC will go toward adding staff, a data center, and digging a deeper footprint in Europe and Asia. The company is working on formalizing two large deals in Japan.
Hirsch says the number of AudienceScience's targeted ad campaigns rose 100% this year, compared with 2008. The company has run more than 50,000 audience-targeted campaigns since 2003.
The industry has begun to change, Hirsch says. The biggest shift revolves around agencies and advertisers building their own networks to take control of targeting and audience buys. But some advertisers are taking it a step further. They want complete control of their audience and media buying, so they have begun to work directly with AudienceScience, bypassing agencies altogether, he says.
Hirsch says the company is focused on building a "valuable business" that can "scale and be financially profitable." Technology is a key differentiator, he adds: AudienceScience started in technology and moved into media, whereas many other BT companies started in media and tried to adopt technology.
The growth in BT has prompted organizations to create or adopt ethical guidelines. The Direct Marketing Association said Monday it has updated guidelines that incorporate online BT principles created by a joint task force of the DMA, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Association of National Advertisers, Direct Marketing Association, Interactive Advertising Bureau and Council of Better Business Bureaus.
"New guidelines being promoted by the IAB and NAI around enhanced notice and choice are the right things to do," Hirsch says. "Consumers need to understand more about what is being done online. The understanding will breed trust, and the trust will breed a more viable advertising solution."
Hirsch wonders whether consumers understand they may become inundated with more advertising because advertisers will have to throw a wider net to find consumers who are interested. "I'm not sure consumers have the proper education, which is on all our shoulders, to understand the value of free content and how advertising plays a role in that," he notes.