Email advertising and marketing platform LiveIntent unveiled a $32.5 million growth equity investment on Wednesday, led by FTV Capital. Other investors include Battery Ventures, First Round Capital and Shasta Ventures.
It will use the funds primarily to build out its platform and APIs for wider integration with other marketing tech companies like Salesforce, an effort also announced on Wednesday. LiveIntent’s API lets clients flight and manage campaigns across its platform from its primary ad server, and the firm is also investing in native offerings.
Its secondary focus is on global expansion in Europe, primarily in the UK following the opening of a London office last November, a market the company considers to be digitally sophisticated and where it expects a smooth transition.
“We see ourselves as a platform like Facebook or Pandora,” said LiveIntent CEO Matt Keiser. “We know marketers are looking to reach their customers in a device and attention fragmented world. … Facebook, Criteo and AOL/Verizon are all leaning into this concept of reaching people across devices and across channels.”
“We have a lot of momentum with the marketing clouds as they understand the power of marketing to people, not pixels,” he added. “DSPs, ESPs, DMPs, measurement and CRM platforms are also in [the] queue for direct integration.”
LiveIntent’s technology lets inventory on promotional email messages be bought, sold and optimized in real time using hashed email addresses. The email addresses are run through a hashing algorithm, which converts each address to a hexadecimal string, effectively anonymizing it. That string can then be identified on other media platforms for targeted advertising.
If a user logs into Facebook using their email address, for example, brands and advertisers can bid via LiveIntent to serve in-email ads based on that user’s behavior and deliver those ads in real time.
The firm facilitates this kind of real-time email advertising for more than 400 brands and 750 publishers, and some of its clients include The Wall Street Journal, Marriott, Condé Nast, Priceline, Kellogg’s and Kraft.
Though LiveIntent originated as a programmatic SaaS platform for email marketing, it now focuses on what it calls “people-based marketing,” a phrase that became popularized when Facebook introduced its cross-device ad server, Atlas.
For LiveIntent, this term means giving marketers the tools to manage the one-to-one targeting process from start to finish, using hashed email address to identify users across the web and mobile devices.
“Brands want to use their anonymized, first-party data to reach real consumers across devices with accuracy and confidence,” said Keiser.
According to Keiser, the difference between people-based marketing and people-based advertising is attribution. Once a brand hands over its first-party CRM data to Facebook, that data doesn’t get returned to marketers. Though this gives marketers access to aggregate data on engagement and ROI, it’s still challenging to close the attribution loop.
For attribution, “brands are free to use their choice of measurement and attribution partners,” Keiser said. LiveIntent has an API that allows its partners to use their first-party data for targeting (LiveAudience), optimization (LiveAudience Optimize) and measurement and attribution (LiveAudience 360).
A number of tech firms are gearing up to enable one-to-one targeting across devices. Facebook’s Atlas relies on the user login. Similarly, Google will allegedly allow marketers to use email address to target search, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Deepening industrywide investments in data also echo this shift, according to Keiser, who pointed to Verizon’s AOL acquisition, Oracle’s investment in BlueKai and Datalogix and Nielsen’s Exelate acquisition as proof of hunger for consumer data that’s attributable to the user level.
“Cross-device measurement is central to what we do,” said Keiser. “You can’t send an email without the consumer having provided their first-party data to the brand. As a result, you can close the loop on attribution and measurement.”
According to a January study by Marketing Sherpa, email is the communication method of choice for consumers’ interactions with brands. The study found that 72% of Americans prefer email for communicating with brands to all other media.
“We don’t believe email is a bulletproof technology, we believe it’s going to evolve,” said Keiser. “But so far, we’ve yet to see another media channel where consumers are actually welcoming hearing from brands.”
LiveIntent’s revenue tripled from 2012 to 2013, and doubled the following year. The firm’s revenue retention from 2013 to 2014 was more than 99%, according to Keiser, and headcount nearly doubled last year to 165.