TubeMogul has raised a $10 million third round of funding to help promote the online video demand-side platform and analytics company's expansion into Asia. See the release. The funding comes amid a flurry of activity in the online video space, including Tremor Video's IPO filing and yesterday's $60 million financing raised by Videology.
In the past week, TubeMogul staked out a leadership position by spearheading a drive to create a new open source standard around viewability metrics through a group of rivals including BrightRoll, Innovid, LiveRail and SpotXchange. Although Asia is fairly advanced when it comes to video usage and mobile, programmatic is still relatively nacent there, as display players like OpenX have been working with established ad agencies like Japan's Dentsu to lay the groundwork for greater automation of online ad buys.
With Southeast Asia's leading telecom SingTel as the primary backer of TubeMogul's third round, through venture arm SingTel Innov8, the plan is to build a programmatic framework around video, which has been the fastest growing segment of display advertising for the last four years. "TubeMogul fits perfectly into our strategy of investing in top advertising companies that are poised for rapid growth in Asia,” said Punit Chiniwalla, director of SingTel Innov8, in a statement.
SingTel Innov8 has been fairly active itself in the digital media space this year, perhaps as a way of shoring up falling profits at the corporate parent, which plunged 33% in Q4, according to the company's earnings report released this month. The company has said that it hoped to boost revenues on mobile advertising, thanks in part to the March 2012 acquisition of mobile ad provider Amobee for $321 million. (SingTel Innov8 invested in mobile exchange Nexage last summer, too.)
Video advertising tools would present a significant complement to both SingTel's mobile and TV holdings. For one thing, SingTel would like to expand its own presence beyond its Singapore homebase to Australia and other countries in the region. The telco told investors two weeks ago that it is willing to spend heavily to make its pay TV service, Mio, a cross-platform video service for the region.
Despite SingTel's strengths, it faces significant competition for rapidly rising video and mobile ad dollars. So the investment in TubeMogul is not going to put it significantly ahead, but as part of a wider strategy to ramp up its video business, it's a pretty good place to start.
Like Tremor, Videology, BrightRoll and YuMe, TubeMogul has been around since 2007, when digital advertising was reaching its first major plateau since the dotcom bubble burst 0f 2001. And like those other companies, TubeMogul has worked to evolve from its ad network/analytics provider beginnings to a video demand-side platform. Its established connection to the buy side is what will help it continue transitioning into Asia, where the major holding companies have been increasingly focused.
As TubeMogul CEO Brett Wilson told AdExchanger last summer, nearly 60% of its revenues were coming from agency trading desks, a figure that's probably done more than inch up since then. (Wilson was unavailable for comment.) Although it's not clear how deep TubeMogul's Asian operations will be tied to SingTel's business, the promise of targeting video viewers across PC, smartphone and TV screens is where the real money potential lies for both companies.
With its recent emphasis on viewability, TubeMogul and its partners/rivals are hoping to drive more brand awareness dollars – i.e., traditional TV ad spend – with the promise of engagement. That's not to say that the company is going to turn away from the long-tail value of direct response video ads. It just needs to prove it can do well with both.
As a metric, viewability is a hot topic right now, but it won't erase all the hurdles preventing marketers and agencies from spending even more on video. Advertisers who long for something as simple as TV's gross ratings point translated to online will likely remain frustrated. But as Wilson told us earlier, viewability can help make the other metrics around video look a lot clearer.
"Without viewability – knowing that someone actually saw the ad – none of the other metrics matter," Wilson said at the time.
By positioning itself out in front on video viewability – and by expanding its existing Japanese, Australian and Singapore presences – TubeMogul, though not often considered an IPO candidate like Adap.tv or YuMe, is trying to build on its founding profile as a one-stop shop for analytics and a programmatic video sales platform.
The timing of it all seems carefully planned: after opening its Japanese office in February, TubeMogul's using today's funding news to herald the unveiling of its new Beijing office under Sven Rossbach, who in his past role at Interpublic Group introduced its trading desk Cadreon to China. It's too early to say how successful Cadreon has been at advancing the cause of programmatic in China; given the accelerated growth of dollars into both video and countries like China, Brazil, India and Russia, it's certainly not too soon to pour in the resources to lay the foundations.