In theory, at least, some company is going to make money, instead of chew through it, rolling up and selling Digital OOH media.
There are a number of companies dead (SeeSaw) or very, very quiet (rVue, Adcentricity) who have had a run at that market, and others you don’t hear much about. But the attraction of creating a marketplace that makes listing and selling and buying ads on screens easy is attractive.
Another company that’s been quietly putting the pieces together for more than a year now made an announcement this week that it has raised $1.5M in new funding to drive growth.
Vistar Media was founded by a couple of veterans from the real-time bidding world online, but it’s targeting the digital out-of-home market. That means TV screens in stores, malls, restaurants, bars — any display that is connected to the Internet and can serve ads to passersby. Until recently, that market was pretty fragmented, with brands and agencies having to buy across multiple different locations, without a ton of data for where their ads would appear or how effective they were.
To go after this market, Vistar has raised $1.5 million in seed funding led by Valhalla Partners, with participation from Mercury Fund and Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
Vistar Media’s founding team Michael Provenzano and Mark Chadwick were both part of Invite Media, the DSP startup acquired by Google back in 2010. Also on the founding team is Jeremy Ozen, who was part of Goldman Sach’s European Special Situations Group in London.
With this background, the team hopes to bring real-time bidding to the digital out-of-home market. Already, it has a large number of screens and impressions that it can sell. It has 80,000 unique locations and 8 billion impressions available as part of its inventory. More important than that, it has a huge amount of data that can help it target certain demographics of viewers. It also can target certain areas, making ads more relevant to local users. Already, a number of brands and agencies have used Vistar to target certain regions and even ZIP codes with their campaigns.
Now that Vistar has built the platform and worked out the inventory, the company is looking to get more sales and biz dev folks on board to actually sell the platform to advertisers.
I have spoken with and dealt with some hyper-confident knuckleheads who thought they had the formula to crack this particular safe, but I never heard from them again. These guys are quite different, based on the direct experience they bring (selling a similar company to Google) and also based on some business deals already in place.
Vistar is what’s under the hood of the real-time buying exchange developed and being used by Kinetic, the WPP-owned company that is the world’s largest buyer of out-of-home media. The RTB platform was developed by another WPP company, Spafax Networks, using Vistar.
The timing is also good, as a little reading of advertising tech publications will tell you a lot of commodity-style online ad buying is being done these says “programmatically.” In other words, ad inventory is being sold and bought like pork bellies and natural gas, with laptops and algorithms taking the place of meetings and taking planners to lunch.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.