Integral Ad Science Raises $67 Million as It Tackles Ad Viewability, Fraud and Effectiveness
By MIKE SHIELDS
The options for targeting with digital ads consumers keeps growing Integral Ad Science, an advertising technology firm that helps marketers make sure their Web ad campaigns run where and how they are supposed to, has raised $67 million, as the company looks to expand its footprint in the digital ad ecosystem.
Of the new capital, $27 million came in the form of equity funding from venture capital firms led by Sapphire Ventures. The company also received $40 million in debt financing from Silicon Valley Bank.
Previously, Integral Ad Science had raised $49.8 million from investors. According to Integral Ad Science’s Chief Executive Scott Knoll, the climate for raising money in the ad tech sector is currently tough, so the company was opportunistic in raising now. “We think it’s only going to be harder to raise going forward,” he said.
Mr. Knoll said that because the firm has been profitable for the past three years and had “100% top-line revenue growth” last year, it wasn’t under pressure to raise any money, which made things easier. “I was always told it’s best to raise when you don’t need it,” he said.
It certainly helps that Integral Ad Science focuses on helping marketers address two pressing and much discussed challenges: protecting themselves against fraudulent ad inventory and making sure their ads are viewable.
“Ad tech is a very difficult market, and a lot of investors have scar tissue,” Mr. Knoll said. “But when you look at what we are doing, which is the quantification of ad quality, long term we think that’s an incredibly huge market. And we feel like we are just scratching the surface. Now, going forward, we think we can help a company everywhere they buy ads.”
That’s an ambitious mission. Integral Ad Science was originally founded in 2009 as AdSafe Media, one of a handful of startups that emerged in the early part of this decadefocused on “ad verification.” As more marketers started buying ads on hundreds of websites at once via networks and exchanges, these firms promised to help brands make sure their ads didn’t end up on sites with questionable content.
Over the past few years, Integral Ad Science has aggressively moved beyond its initial verification focus by building products designed to help brands detect and avoid running ads that can’t ever be seen by human beings (like ads on bogus websites or ads on sites with traffic generated by “bots”). The company was also one of the early technology vendors promising to help advertisers track viewabilitiy, which has become a crucial topic in the online ad industry of late.
More recently, Mr. Knoll said that these marketers are starting to take Integral Ad Science’s data and using it to make decisions on where to buy ads, and what sort of ad placements and environments are most effective. “We’ve gone from providing insurance to becoming a much more strategic partner,” he said. “That’s a huge opportunity.”
Currently, Integral Ad Science works with global brands such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and American Express.
The plan is to take the new cash infusion and invest in more data science, ad buying products, and possible acquisitions. An initial public offering may be possible down the road, though Mr. Knoll said nothing is imminent. “That’s certainly something we are working towards,” he said.