BrightTag Raises $5 Million to Help Advertisers Mind Their Data

As Digital Ad Technology Gets More Complex, a Need for a Unifying System

Ad start-up BrightTag raised a $5 million funding round to help advertisers manage relationships with third-party vendors such as re-targeters, demand-side platforms and data exchanges.

"We're the connectivity layer between those first parties and all the third parties they want to work with," CEO Mike Sands explained. "A retailer that has relationships with DSPs and search marketers and analytics providers will ask each third party to integrate with us."

A major retailer, for example, would typically contract with multiple ad technologies to help it reach consumers across the web. The marketer could have as many as 20 separate vendors such as demand-side platform MediaMath or data exchange BlueKai, each driving consumers through cookies. BrightTag manages those various technical connections, making it easier for advertisers to allow for many cookies to run on their sites at once.

Advertisers pay BrightTag based on the how many of its web pages plug into the system and is not based on media spending.

"Interoperability with BrightTag allows us to focus on our strengths of driving brand and direct response lift in a turnkey way for mutual clients," MediaMath CEO Joe Zawadzki said.

As digital advertising ecosystem gets more complex, the need for unifying technologies has increased. Mr. Sands said there are too many different cookie systems to allow for a single language that would let advertisers, publishers and the innumerable companies in between to communicate efficiently. At the same time, BrightTag has created a single system that stores all information through servers, eliminating the need for any third-party cookies to run on an advertiser's website. A cookie is a string of software code that sits on a user's computer or a company's servers across the web and often slows down a user's ability to browse through pages.

Not all companies have agreed to plug directly into BrightTag's technology, and many advertisers using BrightTag still have to accept cookies from other parties to reach consumers.

Other startups are competing in this area and are sometimes referred to as cookie containers, though each has different software solutions. BlueKai, Demdex and Tagman offer similar single-solution services to BrightTag.

"We're pursuing getting rid of tags," Mr. Sands said. "Our end goal is to integrate directly with all companies as much as possible."

The second funding round, raised from from New World Ventures, Tomorrow Ventures, EPIC Ventures and I2A Ventures, brings BrightTag's total capitalization to $8 million. "Most of the money is going to go toward continuing to build out our technology," Mr. Sands said. "We have a unique technology, and we're also going to put a little of the money toward sales as well."