25 startups to watch (advertising)


What: Turn.com is offering precise, automated ad targeting combined with a system that requires them to pay only for specific desired results (call it pay-per-play).To get started, advertisers first enter the prices they’re willing to pay for various results – $5 for a sales lead, say, or $50 to $60 for a completed transaction. Next, they upload their text-or graphics-based display ads. Turn’s software then analyzes the ads using more than 60 variables – including content, brand strength, and keywords – and determines the right publishers to serve up the ads. Turn splits the revenue (70-30, on average) with the publisher.

Since launching in beta in November, the company has signed up more than 1,000 advertisers and cranked more than 5 million ads through its analysis engine.

Twenty-five publishers are giving the system a tryout, according to Barnett, including a few large news sites and a big social network.

(Google has been rumored to be working on its own version of the pay-per-play model. But the $16 billion-a-year online ad industry is growing so fast that he doesn’t worry about Turn’s ability to carve out a lucrative niche: “These days marketers need to use all the targeting approaches they can find.”)

Question: Will Turn’s pay-per-play model succeed?

Funding: $17.5 million (Norwest Venture Partners, Shasta Ventures, Trident Capital)

Employees: 26Founded: 2005

Business model: Advertising

Bragging rights: 25 million unique viewers to date; 1,000 advertisers; 20 publishers

Next up: Signing more publishers


What: Adify is an online marketplace for highly targeted ads. Businesses can sell ad space directly to advertisers; advertisers can target specific market niches while Adify handles the back-office work.

Funding: $8 million (Venrock Associates)

Employees: 40Founded: 2005

Business model: Advertising

Bragging rights: 4,000 publishers have signed up, including The Washington Post; revenues doubling quarter-over-quarter

Next up: Signing more publishers


What: AdMob offers a place to buy ads for delivery to cell phones. That market is set to explode, and AdMob – which says it has sent out nearly a billion ads in less than a year – is poised to become its middleman of choice.

Funding: $4 million (Sequoia Capital)

Employees: 22Founded: 2006

Business model: Advertising

Bragging rights: 800 publishers, 250 advertisers

Next up: Technology to deliver interactive ads to mobile phones


What: SpotRunner is a one-stop online shop for low-cost 30-second TV ads. Local businesses can browse a library of premade spots and personalize them for airing in their local markets.

Funding: $60 million (CBS, Interpublic Group, WPP)

Employees: 150Founded: 2004

Business model: Advertising

Bragging rights: Clients include Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Mozilla, and Warner Independent Pictures; partners include The Interpublic Group of Companies, WPP, CBS

Next up: Extending the model to other media besides TV, possibly radio and the Internet


What:ViTrue’s platform lets corporate customers solicit, edit, and upload user-generated videos that promote their products. With companies like General Motors tapping the YouTube generation to virally market their wares, ViTrue is in a sweet spot.

Funding: $5 million (Comcast, Ron Conway, General Catalyst Partners, Turner Broadcasting)

Employees: 38Founded: 2006

Business model: Advertising

Bragging rights: 100,000 site users; site on VH1.com

Next up: Developing new sites for youth-oriented media clients


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