Direct online ad sales company isocket has received $8 million in a Series A round of funding. Foundry Group, the venture capital firm known for its online advertising investments in companies like Admeld, Triggit, Medialets, LinkSmart, and Trada, led the investment. New investor Costanoa also joined, with participation from seed investors DFJ, SoftTech, Accelerator, Quest, and Blumberg Capital.
In a further move, Seth Levine, managing director of Foundry Group and James Beriker, former VP for Yahoo Display Advertising and chief executive of Efficient Frontier and Dapper, are joining isocket's board of directors.
"I have said before that I think we'll look back at 2012 as a key year where programmatic direct advertising really began to take hold," said Levine.
"Isocket has a unique and refreshing vision for how to drive real progress in the online ad industry. While a large amount of time, energy, and investment has gone into taking friction out of remnant inventory, very little focus has been paid to applying modern technology to the premium side of the display ecosystem. Direct ad sales should be easier and more fluid - and as a result more profitable for both publishers and advertisers - than existing tools allow for," Levine added.
Isocket's aim is to make the direct sales of online advertising easier for advertisers and publishers, explained John Ramey, the company's chief executive and founder. Premium advertising, traditionally bought and sold by hand or through email attachments, represents more than 75 percent of all online advertising dollars. However, over 90 percent of the technology built in the last decade has been in the unsold "remnant" ad inventory segment, including ad exchanges, SSPs, DSPs, real-time bidding, and private exchanges. The result, Ramey said, is a major industry segment that has been grossly underinvested, with little advancement since the birth of online advertising.
Over 1,500 publishers ranging from AOL, Reuters, and Gawker and thousands of advertisers from Salesforce, BMW, and AppSumo are using isocket. The company's newest product is BuyAds Pro, an application designed to tackle the needs of large-scale professional media buyers interested in planning and purchasing programmatic direct advertising. For the many situations where DSPs and RTB are not the appropriate method to buy online ads, particularly direct "guaranteed" buying, BuyAds Pro offers professional advertisers a large catalogue of publishers, with one-click ordering.
"Since we launched in 2009 with our first publisher TechCrunch, the isocket team has been focused on bringing the best technology and product principles from other areas of the web to the lagging advertising space. There's no reason buying a premium online ad should have 900 percent more overhead cost than buying a comparable TV ad. Our mission is to fix that," said Ramey.
Mark Liao, recent VP business operations and VP operations finance for the Americas at Yahoo, will also join isocket as the company's chief finance officer.
"At Yahoo I had a unique perspective on the very real pain and needed solution for premium web publishers like Yahoo. I saw firsthand the need for more technology in direct sales, primarily to balance out all the solutions built for remnant buying that usually aren't the right ways for publishers to sell their best inventory," said Liao
He continued, "The next big opportunity in online advertising is making the process of selling premium ad inventory easier for both buyers and sellers by replacing the spreadsheet with APIs and web apps. When direct ad buying and selling get easier, the tide will rise for everyone - advertisers get digital access to higher quality, guaranteed inventory, while publishers are able to properly monetize their best inventory."
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Melanie White is the Editor of ClickZ, where she has worked since July 2012. White has been with Incisive Media (ClickZ's parent company) since 2009 where she was Deputy Editor/ US Editor for one of the financial risk management titles, International Custody and Fund Administration (later Custody Risk).
In addition, White worked on FX Week where she was a Senior Reporter. She has also worked and contributed to a number of other titles, including The Accountant, International Accounting Bulletin, the New York Post, Independent Magazine (UK), as well as the broadcast title Sunday Live with Adam Boulton at Sky News.