Audience Science to Push Agency-Aimed Service with Funding

As agencies take more control of the data and technologies driving digital advertising, behavioral firm Audience Science wants in. The firm plans to use a new round of funding to help push its agency-aimed audience segmentation and targeting service.

In the midst of growing pressure on behavioral advertising from U.S. and European governments, Audience Science landed $20 million in funding from Silicon Valley venture capital firms. The company would not disclose how many other funding rounds it has received.

Its audience segmentation service, used by agencies and advertisers, combines advertiser data with data from third parties to better understand advertisers’ site audiences. They can then construct audience segments to inform media buys through Audience Science, or other networks or publishers.

The company isn’t the only one offering this sort of service, but it does appear to be in line with an industry trend. Indeed, several agencies are moving away from traditional media buying and targeting models. As reported here earlier this month, agencies like Publicis and IPG’s Mediabrands have begun analyzing audience and third party data, and using technologies in-house to buy inventory from ad exchanges based on that information.

Audience Science hopes to serve this burgeoning market, as do firms like Quantcast, which offers a similar audience data and targeting product. Audience Science will use its new cash injection in part to push the service in more mature online ad markets, said President and CEO Jeff Hirsch.

“There is a lot of demand in economies where there is a little bit more maturity,” he continued.

Audience Science is based in Seattle and operates in several countries including the U.K., Mexico, Germany, France, Sweden, Russia, South Africa, Japan, and Australia.

The company still enables publisher-side behavioral targeting in addition to its network, and plans to continue promoting those offerings around the world. Currently, according to Hirsch, publishers in 14 countries use the publisher-side product, which allows site publishers to target advertising on their sites alone, based on behavioral data.

“Relying only on their premium content is not enough to make their numbers,” said Hirsch.

Audience Science also plans to use the money towards hiring. According to Hirsch, the firm expects to hire around 25 people worldwide in the coming year.

As data-driven advertising becomes standard, U.S., U.K., and E.U. governments have threatened increased regulation or legislation of online advertising and behavioral targeting. Early this month, U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher said privacy legislation affecting the online ad industry and behavioral targeting could be submitted by November.

In July, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Direct Marketing Association, and other advertising trade groups approved cross-industry accountability framework and privacy principles.

Hirsch said he believes his firm’s investors do recognize the regulatory threat; however, he told ClickZ News, “I think there’s confidence in the government taking a path that will be in the best interest of the consumer.” According to him, that means continuing to allow cookie-based technologies which enable better targeted ads, frequency-capping, and ad-supported content.

Audience Science’s recent funding came from Mayfield Fund, Meritech Capital Partners, Integral Capital Partners, and Mohr, Davidow Ventures.

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