Well, here’s a turn-up for the books. Behavioural ad company Phorm, which had for now given up hope in its native UK after concern over its tracking method, has found its first actual customer – in Brazil.
It’s also claiming “R$10 million (US$ 5.6 million) of pre-booked revenues from advertisers” – significant welcome relief for a company whose income column was totally blank last time it filed accounts.
In his announcement, CEO Kent Ertugrul acknowledges the Brazil roll-out “reflects the many lessons learnt from experiences in other markets”.
With its roots in software that some classed “spyware”, Phorm proposed helping ISPs make more money and advertisers more relevant audiences. Installed on ISPs’ networks, its technology would monitor consenting customers’ every web visit to build an anonymised profile of their browsing habits against which to target ads.
Digital liberties campaigners hated it and, despite initial interest from Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED), TalkTalk and BT (NYSE: BT), neither went to market, leaving Phorm to seek custom instead in South Korea, where Korea Telecom (KT) was trialling the system last we heard.
Facing backlash, Phorm had tried to soften its image last summer with a rebrand, using a new-look product, Webwise Discover, that offers users targeted content as well as targeted ads (value as well as intrusion). It’s this variation that the Brazilian ISPs will use, Phorm says, though it will be named Navegador down there: “It will be made available in due course to all websites in Brazil, free of charge to both them and consumers.”
Ertugrul also claims “we are now active in almost every other major internet market worldwide” – but there’s no public talk of business anywhere besides South Korea and Brazil. The announcement reveals Phorm also claims offices New York and Moscow, as well as Seoul, London and now Sao Paulo.