With A Fresh $21M, Jelli Is Set To Expand Programmatic Radio

Jelli -- which launched in 2009 as a “social radio” service to let fans engage with local radio stations in real-time -- ditched social one year ago to focus solely on programmatic advertising technologies. The pivot has paid off -- literally.

Jelli, now a programmatic ad platform for audio advertising, on Tuesday announced it has closed a $21 million Series B round of funding led by Relay Ventures, Intel Capital, First Round Capital, iHeartMedia and Universal Music Group.

Jelli is already behind some of the largest “programmatic radio” innovations that have occurred to date. The company’s tech powers Marketron’s programmatic offering, as well as iHeartMedia’s. Katz Media Group has also tapped Jelli to operate an ad exchange for programmatic audio.

The sum of cash will help Jelli expand its offering and grow the budding ecosystem even more.

“Programmatic advertising is surging across the entire advertising landscape,” stated Mike Dougherty, CEO of Jelli. He added that the company’s mission to to “make buying an audio ad as easy as buying a digital ad” by bringing automation technology to broadcast radio.

Two months after tapping Jelli to get into the programmatic game, iHeartMedia invested in Unified for analytics and targeting. When that happened on week ago, I took this space to posit that radio is programmatic’s latest puzzle piece. Perhaps I should have waited a week; by investing in Jelli, iHeartMedia has strengthened its grip.

There are still some doors left unlocked, however. Pandora, for example, is not offering audio ads programmatically (its offering allows for display ad-buying across both desktop and mobile). Pandora considers audio ads to be too “intimate” to the overall user experience to be entrusted to machines. If and when Pandora decides to sell audio ads programmatically, the Pandora’s Box headline will write itself and we can usher in a new era.

But that’s a different section of audio. As Dougherty noted, Jelli is focused on bringing programmatic technologies to broadcast radio companies. Companies like Pandora and Apple represent the digital side of the equation.

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