Grapeshot Raises $8.5M C Round For Its Hyper-Speed Keyword Targeting

AdTech has been lumbering along in the last few years, with a number of M&A moves to consolidate the market – not least the purchase by Verizon of AOL, allegedly (in the main) for its ad platform.

But there remain niches where AdTech is actual innovating. To that end, London-based Ad tech firm Grapeshot has raised $8.5m in funding from European-based investors IQ Capital, Draper Esprit, and Albion Ventures, bringing its total raised to $14.25m.

Part of the reason why this has happened is because Grapeshot (mainly) sells its technology to ad marketplaces – sites which let advertisers bid for space on content sites. It then enables ad marketplaces to offer advertisers this key feature: to target their ads to webpages that contain only certain keywords.

Now, you might say this has been done long ago. Of course, keyword targeting has been around since the advent of Google’s AdWords and AdSense. People are familiar with seeing this targeted advertising in search results, Twitter, and Facebook.

John Snyder, CEO of Grapeshot, says: “What sets Grapeshot apart is that it allows advertisers to keyword-target their display adverts in real-time through programmatic buying on ad marketplaces and platforms, like AppNexus, Turn, MediaMath, and Trade Desk. Twitter pulses at 6,000 or so tweets per second, whereas AppNexus alone hums at 3 million live consumer impressions per second.

“Grapeshot allows advertisers to target what audiences are reading ‘live’ that very second. This helps businesses decide in real-time if the page content is right for them or too toxic. For a brand like, say, Volkswagen Audi, they wouldn’t want to be advertising when the page is a breaking premium Telegraph article discussing diesel emissions.”

He says the targeting has to be decided within 1 millisecond, and the programmatic ad platforms only tolerate 10 milliseconds end-to-end for any data provider. The whole ad ‘auction’ on these platforms last 50 milliseconds, in the blink of the eye as the consumer loads the page.

This, if an advertiser is selling gloves, it lets them target the ads only on pages where ‘gloves’ is mentioned. If the advertiser is an airline, it lets them exclude ads from pages where ‘aviation crash’, etc, is mentioned.

Part of the reason it’s capable of doing this is pure science. The company was originally founded by two Cambridge University researchers in 1992.

As the Web dawned it sold its services directly to publishers, like MailOnline, who could then offer advertisers the ability to target their adverts to pages with certain keywords. In 2012, it started selling its services directly to ad marketplaces, where it now does a lot of its business. It still sells to brands and publishers though.

Clients now include AppNexus, Johnson & Johnson, British Airways, MediaCom, and MailOnline.

Competitors include Google which obviously provides its own keyword solution, but it doesn’t sell this keyword analysis technology to third-parties. Other competitors include Proximic by comScore, and Peer39 by Sizmek. Grapeshot claims to be faster than them.

Today, the CEO is John Snyder, who previously had a successful exit of the Muscat search business in 1997. The Chairman is Tim Schoonmaker, who was Chairman of EMAP Advertising and then CEO of Odeon Cinemas. The company has headquarters in London, New York and Singapore.