Al Franken’s hard-hitting Location Privacy Protection Act, proposed yesterday, caught some advertisers by surprise, especially the part about informing consumers every time an app wants to share your information with third-party advertisers. But Peer39, a New York-based ad-tech start-up, saw the smoke signals years ago.
The company has been developing technology to sidestep private advocates’ other favorite boogeyman: cookies. Peer39, which started out in Israel, pivoted in 2009 from being an ad network to finding a way to help online advertisers wean themselves off cookies. Instead of following the digital crumbs, it uses semantic analysis to scrutinize the words on every Web page to help advertisers figure out where to place their ads.
The technology works in three ways. Using both natural language and machine learning, it identifies content-rich pages (as opposed to, say, a log-in page), lets advertisers target a specific category (retirees, personal finance), and a “safety feature” that lets Budweiser find alcohol-related pages, and Disney avoid them, reports Xconomy. Peer39 can also figure out when the sentiment behind a word has changed, like when “Joplin” became more associated with the tornado than the singer. In May, Peer39 raised $5.2 million in a Series D round, bringing it’s total funding to $27 million from firms like Caanan Partners, SVB Financial Group, and JP Morgan.
Peer39 sells its technology to agencies, publishers, and ad networks, but sees the biggest potential in clients like AdMeld, an ad-bidding platform recently acquired by Google. The start-up’s new CEO, Andy Ellenthal, should have an easy time making a pitch. Until recently, he used to be CEO of quadrantONE, the national online newspaper ad alliance.
An old-media type leaving for the start-up world to disrupt the industry from whence he came . . . Is this the model of the new tech economy we were promised? Maybe, but the future is still up in the air. Ellenthal told Xconomy:
“We need to make those brands comfortable leveraging these new technologies. They need to know their ads won’t end up on pages that are inappropriate, but rather in environments that are relevant to what they’re trying to do.”