SEMDirector Snags $16 Million In Financing, Rebrands As Covario

SEMDirector has rebranded itself Covario--and snagged $16 million in a Series B funding round led by FT Ventures. The rebranding is aimed at positioning the search marketing automation tech firm as a partner for enterprises in need of campaign management for display, mobile and social media programs--not just search.

According to Craig Macdonald, vice president, product management and marketing at San Diego-based Covario, the company will use a significant portion of the new funding to attain that goal.

Clients like WPP's Neo@Ogilvy and Intel previously tapped Covario for its suite of paid and natural search optimization tools, with a dashboard that enabled them to better manage campaigns with hundreds of thousands of keywords across multiple countries and languages. Under the new brand, Covario will also offer tools for display ad management and performance analysis, with social media and mobile features to come later in 2008.

Macdonald said that Covario had been contemplating the expansion of their services for some time, but a flurry of client requests in the summer of '07 jump-started the development of a new set of products. "We had about 70% of our clients asking if we could add display ad performance into the dashboard, because they wanted to see the comparative performance of search and display," he said. "And we realized that we needed to change our name if we were going to expand our product set, because 'Search Engine Marketing Director' was no longer appropriate for the wider opportunity we were going after."

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The one-stop dashboard that can tie together campaign performance analysis from across all digital channels is the fabled "Holy Grail" of online advertising--and even Google has sought to capitalize on the market for one, releasing details of its own dashboard in progress. Macdonald said that there's room for all potential players in the space, and that third-party automation and management firms would retain a unique value proposition in a saturated market--simply because they were platform-agnostic.

"We have a great relationship with Google, and a number of our clients are already doing a significant amount of performance tracking with them," Macdonald said. "But Covario's tools can consolidate performance across multiple platforms and ad types, including Google and DoubleClick, MSN and ATLAS, and Yahoo for search and display in the U.S. But we also work outside the U.S. with data from Baidu, Navver and Russia's Yandex." Some clients might have trepidation about giving complete access to detailed ad spend data and post-click behavior to a campaign management service that's run by the platform-provider itself, he said.

Covario would use much of the $16 million Series B financing for building out the new product sets and their distribution and support mechanisms, Macdonald said. "We're working on additional capabilities so that the ad agencies can better use our technologies themselves, and we're bundling more advanced analytics into the system," he said. "The new tools will have scenario-based, predictive analysis functionality, so that advertisers can plug in the different channels they'll use, including mobile, social media, search or display--and see how changes will affect campaign performance before they implement them."

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