Widgetbox Rebrands As Flite, Lands $12 Million
Reflecting its shift from supplying widget-building tools to powering rich media ads, Widgetbox has rebranded as Flite. In connection with its new business focus on ad technology, the company has received a third round of funding of $12 million led by General Catalyst and including participation from Sequoia Capital, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners and NCD Investors.
That brings the total the San Francisco-based company has raised to $26.5 million. Flite plans to use the latest round to build out its platform for running display ads that deliver an "app-like" experience featuring real-time Web content and other social and interactive features.
After launching in 2006 with technology to help clients create and distribute Internet widgets, then expanding into mobile, the company will now concentrate on the rich media ad system it launched last year called ClickTurn (though that name is also being phased out). "Our cloud advertising platform has taken off so much that we decided to make this the focus of the entire company, and we're now pivoting with our name and messaging to better reflect this direction," said Flite CEO Will Price.
The company's ad system, built on top of its widget technology, has been used by advertisers including Toyota, FedEx, Sony and IBM -- for which its ad units have appeared on major sites including Yahoo, Forbes.com, Yelp and LinkedIn. Overall, Flite has served 25 billion ad units and drawn 120 million monthly unique visitors. The company typically collects a CPM fee of $1 when an ad runs.
Price explains that the broader goal is turn standard banners into the equivalent of "mini Web pages" equipped with tabs for things like video, Twitter feeds, polls and real-time media that can be updated on the fly. In addition to making ads more dynamic to boost engagement, Flite also promises to cut the typical four weeks for advertisers and agencies to create a custom rich media ad to 20% of the time while delivering improved results.
"In real-world, multi-client tests, we've compared the engagement, conversion and brand lift results of dynamic and standard display ads and found that Flite's approach consistently outperforms that of disconnected control ads by a wide margin," said Brian Monahan, EVP and managing partner at IPG Lab, the emerging media arm of Interpublic Group, in a statement. McCann Erickson is among other agencies working with the Flite platform.
With all the interactive elements that Flite ad units package, they naturally generate a variety of metrics from video plays to "scrolls" to tab clicks and how many times ads were expanded. Price says the company can help advertisers translate those disparate data points into traditional measures like brand recall, favorability and purchase intent. "We're starting to correlate all these actions with campaign goals," he said.
Flite's effort to both simplify and upgrade online display advertising reflects the wider industry drive to grab more brand dollars from TV and traditional media. Even within the Internet ad sector alone, rich media captured just 6% of the $12.1 billion total spent during the first half of 2010, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau. That's a figure Flite and its competitors are trying to push up with a new generation of high-impact banners.