Specialists in demand
Where the world's big ad-holding companies once cast about for creative agencies to shore up relationships with major clients, they are now snatching up companies that specialize in digital media or ad distribution to help bolster their abilities to serve marketers in a rapidly fragmenting media world. WPP is investing in Invidi as part of a $25 million round of financing and joins three venture-capital firms that were already Invidi investors: Menlo Ventures and InterWest Partners, both of Menlo Park, Calif., and EnerTech Capital of Wayne, Pa.
WPP spent about 18 months vetting Invidi, said Michael Kubin, the Princeton, N.J., company's exec VP. The size of WPP's specific investment was not detailed. "There hasn't been a board meeting with Irwin on it, but Irwin's not shy, so I think he will make his presence felt. At least, I hope he will make his presence felt," Mr. Kubin said. Mr. Gotlieb did not respond immediately to an e-mail message.
Like its ad-holding rivals, WPP has invested in or bought firms that specialize in the creation and distribution of new forms of commercials -- many of which are related to fast-emerging forms of digital media. WPP recently purchased 24/7 Real Media, a company that offers search-marketing services, a network of websites where advertisers can place their ads and the technology to distribute the ads. It has also invested in SpotRunner, which helps local advertisers create ads through an online interface, and Visible World, a New York firm that helps marketers customize ads for different audiences.
Up and running by '08
Invidi is working with several cable, satellite and telecommunications companies to deploy its technology, said Mr. Kubin, and expects to have it running in some places by 2008. The company's technology helps determine what kind of person is watching TV at any given time and can identify age, gender, location, income, and ethnicity of the viewer. As such, ads can be targeted at very specific audiences -- so a diaper ad might not run on a TV being watched by a freewheeling bachelor.
Using information available to cable and satellite providers has long been seen as a useful way to make TV ads more relevant and thus more appealing to particular consumers. Currently, TV ads remain largely aimed at broad audiences who may not all be in the market for a particular car, phone or shoe all at the same time.