Facebook software firm Vitrue today announced it has grabbed $17 million in a third round of funding and an a-list adviser -- Mike Murphy, former global ad sales chief of Facebook and current senior adviser to casual games giant Zynga.
"I truly believe that the next three are going to be the most exciting years in the history of marketing because of whats going on in social," Mr. Murphy, who left Facebook in October, told Ad Age. "Vitrue has built a set of scalable tools that marketers and agencies can use that not only create value on Facebook -- and on Twitter and in Zynga -- but also tools that measure the value that's created."
Those Vitrue tools are being used by brands such as Procter & Gamble, AT&T, Nascar and Coors as well as agencies such as Wieden & Kennedy, Y&R and Edelman. Atlanta-based Vitrue CEO Reggie Bradford said he likens what his company's software can do for advertisers and marketers to what Salesforce did for the sales industry.
"Marketing organizations will use software to manage all their contacts and connections on a global basis," Mr. Bradford said, adding that he plans to open support offices worldwide and hire engineers. "The biggest thing is there's an insatiable demand around the world for marketers and agencies to figure out how to best grow their business." Plans include helping clients use location and mobile as part of their social-media marketing. For example, if a user checks into a location on Facebook, Vitrue can help the brand figure out what kind of coupon to offer the user that can be redeemed at that very moment in the specific location.
The volatile social-media-marketing space is not without competition -- Buddy Media recently got $23 million in funding and Context Optional has been around for almost as long as Vitrue. Both companies work with big brands and agencies. How big is the demand? Big enough for Vitrue to plan to open offices in London, Toronto, Singapore and seven U.S. cities.
Obviously, venture capitalists believe that Vitrue is a good bet, because this last round adds up to more than $32 million in funding for the company that opened its doors in 2006 with investments from Ron Conway, an original investor in Google and Twitter. This last $17 million is led by Scale Venture Partners and Advent Venture Partners.
Mr. Murphy met Mr. Bradford around three years ago when Vitrue first began to work with the Facebook platform and when Mr. Murphy was heading the global advertising sales operation at Facebook. As he continues to search for social networking and media companies to work with, Mr. Murphy said he ultimately expects be be active in only a handful of companies. Mr. Murphy said his senior adviser role at Zynga is more of an operating role in helping build out the ad-sales team, and that at Facebook he continues to advise the company about opportunities in the marketplace. It's an interesting balance of power, as Zynga is one of Facebook's biggest and most important strategic partners.
Mr. Murphy said the reason social-media marketing efforts are so important to brands is because the internet is finally making good on a dream. "Now that social's here, marketers and advertisers are realizing the promise of digital -- which was always a two-way dialogue and emotional connections with their customers."