LiveIntent, with $8M from Series B, Plans New Hires and Weighs Overseas Opportunities

10/6/11Follow @jpruth

Catching the attention of customers can hinge on timing and placement. That’s the thinking behind New York’s LiveIntent, which offers advertisers and publishers a way to tailor banner ads in e-mails for the recipients. The two-year-old startup closed an $8 million Series B funding round in September and, according to chief operating officer David Hendricks, is moving fast to grow its ranks. “If we aren’t double our size in one year, I’d be surprised,” he says.

LiveIntent’s latest funding, led by Shasta Ventures, brings the company’s total backing to $13 million. Other investors in LiveIntent include First Round Capital, Battery Ventures, Grape Arbor VC, and Lerer Ventures. Hendricks says the company will use its most recent funding to add more sales, technical, and operations personnel to the current staff of 25.

LiveIntent’s technology picks which banner ads to display when people open their e-mail messages, based on demographics and other information. So a person who receives an e-mail on a smartphone in New York City will see a different banner ad than a person who reads the same e-mail on a tablet device in Dubuque, Iowa. “We make the decision of which ad to send based on where somebody is when they open the message,” Hendricks says.

The idea of tailoring mass e-mails is gaining more attention from advertisers and publishers. New York’s Sailthru, for example, helps publishers automate content selection for electronic newsletters based on the demographics and interests of their readers. LiveIntent is focused on cherry-picking the appropriate banner ads at the time the recipient views the message. The company’s clients include publishers such as The Daily Beast/Newsweek, New York’s Daily News, and MediaNews Group. Ad agencies that represent packaged goods, personal finance, and telecom companies also use LiveIntent’s technology, Hendricks says.

He explains that the banner ads are selected based on tags in the senders’ email systems. These tags can hold information about the pool of recipients, such as age range, income, type of device the e-mail is viewed on, and geography. Publishers can sell advertising based on such tags. LiveIntent’s platform then pulls the appropriate banner to fit the recipient. “In the old way, someone had to make a decision on who gets which ads at the time of sending,” Hendricks says.

While the recipients remain anonymous, the system keeps track of the types of ads they receive via e-mail and presents relevant ads on participating websites they visit later. Hendricks says the e-mail recipients opt-in to receive these messages when they sign up with the content publishers.

David Hendricks, COO for LiveIntent

Though LiveIntent is currently focused on e-mail, Hendricks says founder and CEO Matt Keiser started the company in 2009 with a different strategy. “When I joined LiveIntent, we were developing a social media technology—a widget like UberMedia,” Hendricks says.

LiveIntent’s original plan was to steer users to people to follow in social media, but tying that to advertising proved difficult. “We couldn’t get brands to bid for users in social media,” Hendricks says. Content publishers got on board, but he says advertisers had a hard time seeing the value in investing in such a service.

In September 2010, Keiser and Hendricks pivoted to the new strategy. The ubiquity of e-mail, Hendricks says, provides a way to reach a vast audience nationwide, especially on mobile devices. “We took the existing technology and harnessed it to e-mail,” he says. Advertisers that use LiveIntent’s services can bid on the type of audience they want to reach via banner ads within the e-mails sent by publishers.

The technology also gives publishers a way to sell banner space to local advertisers, Hendricks says. LiveIntent’s system can be tailored to send ads only to recipients within specific markets. “Someone in Washington, DC does not want an ad for a product they could only buy at a store in Denver,” he says.

Keiser previously co-founded and was president of New York’s Datran Media, a provider of digital advertising and e-mail marketing technology. Hendricks previously served as an executive vice president at Datran Media.

LiveIntent is currently focused on publishers and advertisers in North America, but Hendricks says the company is tentatively exploring overseas markets. “We’re getting queries from media companies in [Britain], Japan and, South America,” he says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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