Twitter In-Stream Ad Network Ad.ly Raises $5 Million, Recruits News Corp Exec As CEO

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Twitter advertising network Ad.ly, which launched last year, has raised $5 million in additional funding led by GRP Partners with Greycroft Partners and Matt Coffin (the founder of LowerMyBills) participating in the round. Ad.ly is also bringing on new CEO, Arnie Gullov-Singh. Gullov-Singh was previously EVP of product, technology and operations at News Corp’s Fox Audience Network, a group he co-founded 4 years ago. Founder Sean Rad will become President of Ad.ly.

Ad.ly’s platform places ads within the Twitter stream. Ad.ly links up advertisers with Twitter users and then distribute links to marketing campaigns through the user’s tweet streams with full disclosure.

Ad.ly’s recently launched self service platform platform enables Advertisers to connect with any Twitter users who signs up for Ad.ly’s service. So for example, an advertiser for Dell could choose which Twitter power-user to pitch their ad too and then submit a bid to a particular user. The publisher then approves or denies the request. Once the publisher approves the Tweet, the message is sent out via their account by Ad.ly. You can find examples of Ad.ly Tweets here, and here.

Ad.ly also offers analytics that provides valuable data to advertisers including user engagement, male and female segmentation, location, and sentiment analysis. Ad.ly has partnered with PeopleBrowsr, a startup that data mines Twitter, to provide the data to users. Ad.ly will profile each publisher with user data, and will allow advertisers to target their campaigns according to this data.

As of today, Ad.ly network has over 70,000 publishers (Twitterers), a number of which have more than a million followers. In total, Ad.ly platform reaches 45 million unique people. Publishers range from celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Bethenny Frankel, and Soulja Boy, to publications like Newsweek, to influencers like Deepak Chopra and Mark Cuban. Anyone, regardless of their follower count, can join Ad.ly as well.

Advertisers have included Microsoft, NBC, Universal, Bookrenter, Hautelook, Clicker, and Chartbeat. We’ve actually tested out Ad.ly here at TechCrunch; and donated the proceeds to the Golden Gate Lab Rescue organization.

We reported in February that Ad.ly is seeing average campaign CTR ranges from 1%-3.5% (However, Rad says that Ad.ly has seen CTRs that are far greater than 3.5%). Rad says that this performance is key when comparing to clickthrough rates for conventional display advertising, which he says is be around .19%.

Of course, Twitter recently unveiled their own advertising platform, Promoted Tweets. While this differs slightly from what Ad.ly is doing, it wouldn’t be surprising if Twitter moved into in-stream advertising in the near future.

Regardless of Twitter’s foray into the advertising world, Rad seems confident that there’s a place for Ad.ly in the stream. Rad says that the Twitter ecosystem is so large that there is room for many players in the space. He also alluded to a new product that the network will be launching soon but declined to give us details at this time.

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