Spot Runner, which helps marketers buy TV ad spots on local cable and broadcast using its online service, has raised a big $51 million fourth round from an international group of investors with an eye on expansion beyond the U.S. New investors include UK media group *Daily Mail* and *General Trust*, Spanish-speaking media giant Grupo Televisa, hedge fund Legg Mason Capital Management and French luxury group Groupe Arnault/LVMH. Also participating, some of the existing investors; not sure who specifically but the original group included Allen & Company, Battery Ventures, Capital Research and Management, CBS (NYSE: CBS), Index Ventures, The Interpublic Group, Tudor Investment Corporation and WPP.
DMGT will help take the service to UK and other parts of Europe and Grupo Televisa to Latin America. Groupe Arnault/LVMH, as one of the largest advertisers in the fashion category, will use Spot Runner as a test bed for new forms of advertising.
This new round brings total funding in the company to $111 million. LA-based Spot Runner, which now has about 300 employees, recently did some major hires, including former Interpublic CEO Mark Rosenthal as president of Media Platforms and vice chairman, and Joanne Bradford, former head of MSN, as EVP.
Spot Runner started with self-serve TV spots and has expanded into online video as broker and distributor, acquiring Weblistic earlier this year for the purpose. Radio and print will follow, CEO Nick Grouf told me when we spoke this evening. He said the money will be used to expand in other countries, and also for strategic acquisitions as they make sense. (It already has two acquisitions this year.) As for working with bigger media companies and agencies, just like Google and Overture, Spot Runner found that “by solving that targeting problem for small businesses, we also solved the problem for some of the largest businesses.” That’s where the new strategic investors come in.
Competing with Google: I asked him about Spot Runner’s multi-platform ad expansion and the more-than-formidable competition in taking Google’s machine head on. Grouf explained that Spot Runner doesn’t own any inventory, as opposed to Google and YouTube, so his company avoids channel conflict, something that can deter others from working with Google (NSDQ: GOOG). Also, Spot Runner doesn’t own unused inventory exclusively, as Google does — another point that he thinks works in his company’s favor. That said, Google is both the biggest hurdle and a potential buyer (the two have held talks over the last year or so). Grouf wouldn’t give any details on revenues or profitability, saying only that revenues grew 500 percent last year, which, of course, doesn’t say anything concrete.
Meanwhile, Google keeps plugging away at its TV ads program, and recently opened its service to all marketers following tests. AdAge explains the program’s status while Google uses its own blog post here to explain.
Creative: Helping small business develop TV/radio and online ads is a big part of the business, but tough to scale. Spot Runner bought GlobeShooter, a network of more than 1,200 independent video professionals, with the intent of helping its customers develop the ads to be served through its network.