Online-advertising verification company DoubleVerify has announced a $33 million funding round led by JMI Equity and Institutional Venture Partners, a sign that the newish business of online-ad verifying is becoming more entrenched among marketers.
DoubleVerify and competitors such as AdSafe, AdXpose (which was acquired by ComScore for $22 million this month) and Adometry (acquired in March by click-fraud monitor Click Forensics, which took its name) present themselves as police of display media's Wild West, tracking impressions to see whether ads are being delivered according to order terms. For example, they can report if ads are being published beside questionable content or a competitor's ads, on international websites, or above or below the fold. Some operate more on the buy side and others on the sell side.
DoubleVerify's clients include AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, Bank of America, Walmart, Wells Fargo, Capital One and TD Ameritrade, and the company says it's verifying 40 billion ad impressions a month. Its services run at a cost-per-thousand impression rate of under 10 cents -- depending on the type and bulk ordered -- on the marketer and agency side, which is the majority of the business, according to CEO Oren Netzer, or an annual flat fee. It also works with ad networks, ad servers and demand-side platforms, which query DoubleVerify's servers to determine whether an impression is appropriate for the advertiser before delivering it.
The service, which is based in New York but has offices in Israel and London, launched in May 2009 with $3.5 million in funding and raised another $10 million in March 2010. Blumberg Capital and First Round Capital also invested in the current $33 million round.
Mr. Netzer said the cash infusion could be used for acquisitions, and that he's "looking for complementary technologies to expand our product suite." He also plans to invest more in the sell side on products for publishers, ad networks and DSPs and to launch an audience-verification product that would tell marketers whether they're reaching the right audience in terms of demographics and behavioral attributes.
Marketers' display-media concerns may also be evolving. Group M, the media-buying unit of WPP, began working with DoubleVerify when it was in beta testing and was initially focused on rooting out ads that appeared next to inappropriate content, according to John Montgomery, chief operating officer of Group M Interaction. Now the focus has moved to geotargeting and ensuring that ads are delivered as per the insert order.
"The start of where we became interested in verification was the adjacency issue, but now it's become finer and about whether the ad is delivered according to specs," he said.
Mr. Montgomery noted that Group M has contracts with both DoubleVerify and AdSafe, since it's "always safer to have more than one supplier in one area." He said that AdSafe's ad-blocking technology (which prevents ads from appearing next to flagged content) has proven useful, and that DoubleVerify has run high-volume campaigns better.
He thinks the verification space could be poised for more growth, and he's been involved in an ongoing effort to get the major online verifiers certified by the Media Rating Council, which could streamline the often slow process of certification by individual publishers. While some publishers have been hesitant to embrace verification technology (DoubleVerify was only certified to run its services on the Google Display Network in March ), appetite on the buy side seems to be strong for it.
"It's increasingly ubiquitous because brands are always looking for ways to ensure that what they're doing is the highest quality. There's not really a downside with verification," said Joanna O' Connell, a Forrester analyst who covers display marketing. "If you talk to a brand like BofA, they just treat it like any ad cost. They treat it as the cost of doing business in display media."
While Ms. O' Connell doesn't anticipate new startups entering the verification space, she expects to see major verification suppliers integrating with demand-side platforms built to involve marketers in ad exchange and the biddable display landscape.
"Companies that already play in the display space will announce those services," said Ms. O' Connell, who also thinks it's possible that some verification companies could be absorbed by larger platforms.