TV ad sales platform Invision has raised a $5 million second round of funding to build out its technology for addressable TV sales. It comes nearly two years after a huge $30 million first round from ABS Capital Partners, along with CIBC Capital Partners, and ABS’ partner, Piper Jaffray. In addition to the capital infusion, Invision also has new blood at the top, namely former AOL (NYSE: AOL) exec Lynda Clarizio as CEO. Clarizio, the former head of AOL’s Advertising.com and the now-defunct Platform-A unit, quietly replaced co-founder Christine Watkins, who became chairman of the board, in December.
The 10-year-old New York company hired Clarizio to chart expansion plans into cross-platform sales. To get a head start on that goal, Clarizio tells us that the bulk of the funding will go towards expanding Invision’s TV ad-sales management systems to include audience targeting via set-top boxes. After that, she wants to open up the system further to allow for ad sales across online as well as across cable and broadcast.
After helping broaden AOL’s business model from that of a dial-up service to include a range of online ad services under its former parent Time Warner (NYSE: TWX), Clarizio says she was attracted to Invision because of its goal of bridging traditional media and digital. Clarizio also offered some thoughts on the current online and TV ad markets and the challenges facing AOL CEO Tim Armstrong as he tries to boost the company’s premium ad sales.
About a year ago, Clarizio was replaced with former Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) global sales exec Greg Coleman — now at Huffington Post as president and chief revenue officer — during one of AOL’s darkest days. While Clarizio got high marks from some for starting to tie the various acquisitions under Platform-A together, former AOL CEO Randy Falco and ex-COO Ron Grant ultimately wanted someone with a direct-sales background who would be able to help stanch the declines in display, or at least give the impression that a turnaround plan was in place. Between AOL and Invision, Clarizio consulted for digital-media companies, while living in the DC area.
— Other addressable-TV efforts: Clarizio describes Invision as “the DoubleClick of TV.” It currently manages $12 billion in sales inventory through its DealMaker software system for clients such as NBC Universal (NYSE: GE), Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA), The Weather Channel and Sony (NYSE: SNE). Other addressable TV efforts from Google (NSDQ: GOOG) TV Ads and the cable industry-backed Canoe Ventures continue the slow work of building out their respective systems. Clarizio says that Invision expects to announce a lineup of media partners for its targeted ad platform in a matter of weeks.
— Looking back: Clarizio is convinced that bridging TV and digital presents more solid business opportunities in the online ad space, rather than just betting on the web. She says that’s the direction she was headed in at AOL, but she ran out of time. “We took on a big job at AOL and Platform-A, and we really didn’t have enough time to nail down everything we wanted to do,” she said. “On top of that, we were in the middle of the worst ad recession in 50 years.”
She says the online-ad space has become very crowded. “Inventory is divided into utility impressions and premium. There