Ad-based platforms can face a lot of heat from advertisers when they can’t control how and where their ads run: just look back to the ad boycott against Facebook earlier this year (or earlier boycotts against YouTube and others) as examples of when it all goes wrong. One of the ways this is getting addressed is with tech; and today, DoubleVerify, one of the companies that has been building tools to improve how those two interplay together, is announcing that it has closed a monster round of $350 million to continue with that work.
DoubleVerify provides tools to advertisers and brands, marketplaces and publishers — longtime customers include the likes of Facebook, which provides it as a tool for advertising clients to use in their analytics dashboard. Its tech can detect fraud (essentially verifying that you are paying for actual people, not bots, to see your ads), “viewability” (making sure ads are in formats that don’t go wonky depending on devices and so on), and brand safety (eg, making sure your soda pop ad is not running as a preroll to a Covid conspiracy video).
The round is being led by Tiger Global, with Fidelity, funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, and funds advised by Neuberger Berman Investment Advisers LLC also participating, among others. DoubleVerify says that Providence Equity Partners, which took a controlling stake in the company in 2017, remains the majority investor. It is not disclosing its valuation but in 2017, the Providence investment valued it at $300 million, according to PitchBook data.
The company said that this new investment — which it expects to close in Q4 2020 — will primarily be used for secondary purposes, purchasing shares from existing shareholders, with part also going to investing in the business itself in newer areas of business such as connected TV analytics.
“The support of these high caliber investors speaks to DoubleVerify’s momentum, including new customer growth, product innovation and global expansion,” said Mark Zagorski, CEO of DoubleVerify, in a statement. Zagorski joined the company in July of this year, having previously been at the Rubicon Project.
DoubleVerify’s rise comes at a key moment in the world of online media.
Sites built on the complementary streams of advertising and user-generated/shared content have been navigating tricky waters, especially in recent times with the proliferation of misinformation related to Covid-19, the US elections, and increasing unrest over social issues like racism.
Those sites want traffic and engagement to continue growing, but that also means — especially these days — coming up against controversial material that raises the hackles of brands and other ad customers who don’t want to be associated with it.
While sites continue to try to hone their terms and conditions and content policies, and policing tactics, the whole situation continually feels like a leaky bucket, with iffy material always coming through regardless (and that’s before you consider the pesky presence of bots on on these platforms, which not only turn the wheels of virality and activity but, yes, count as “viewers” of ads).
Groups like DoubleVerify serve — pardon the pun — a double purpose. They are both there to provide more visibility and control for brands and the platforms themselves; but they also can be held up by the parties as an example of best-effort investments, using third-party sources to improve the quality of what the companies themselves are doing firsthand.
“We look forward to partnering with Mark and the entire DoubleVerify management team as the Company continues the growth of its business globally,” said John Curtius, Partner, Tiger Global, in a statement.
Brand safety and the related areas here are starting to get increasing focus with the proliferation of problematic content, and advertisers’ backlash against it. Others that have invested in tools to address it have included Oracle, AppLovin, and Cheq, among others.
“The DoubleVerify team has consistently executed across all levels of the business,” added Davis Noell, senior MD at Providence and chairman of DoubleVerify’s board, in a statement. “We welcome the investment by Tiger and these other premier investment firms, and we are excited to continue to support the Company.”
This investment comes weeks after the company inked a new $150 million revolving credit facility led by Capital One.