Ad Optimizer Rocket Fuel Takes Another $10 Million From Nokia, Others

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It says plenty about how the growth in online advertising – though it’s still growth – has slowed, that companies like Rubicon Project, which aim to extract every last cent from ad spend, are proving attractive.

Rocket Fuel, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to try improving the relevance of displayed ads, has now raised $10 million in venture capital. In an interview with paidContent, Rocket Fuel CEO George John said that the company is focused on premium brand display and has been seeing a lot more spending from consumer packaged goods companies, in particular.

According to the company’s website: “There should be no contextual ad networks or behavioral ad networks. It’s like debating whether you should have eyes or ears. If you can have both, it’s a win and there’s no point debating.”

So it trains a range of software technologies to derive a better picture of who audiences are in order to better target impressions.

This latest money follows December’s $2.85 million round and the earlier $6.8 million first round.

The money is led by Nokia (NYSE: NOK) Growth Partners, with previous backers Mohr Davidow Ventures and Labrador Ventures joined by newcomer Northgate Capital.

The move would seem to give the Redwood Shores, California-based company access to Scandinavia, since Nokia is in Helsinki and Northgate has London offices.

Aside from expanding its geography, the funding will also help Rocket Fuel offer a wider array of services to advertisers. In an interview, Rocket Fuel’s George noted that online ad sales have gotten increasingly complicated. “Even as most of the major ad agencies have set up their online ad trading desks to jump on the ad exchange wave, we still find that most want full service as opposed to the self-serve model that is emerging now,” George told paidContent. “They just want to call up, tell us the kind of performance they want and be done.”

To handle those needs, Rocket Fuel plans to build up its sales force. “It’s simple, when you add more sales people, you add more sales dollars,” he said. “As much as computers are involved, getting sales completed takes calendar time. We have 13 ad sales execs today and would love to hire 20. I’m not certain we’ll actually hire that many, but we expect to get close to that number by the end of this year.”

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