LiveIntent creates real-time ad platform for email

Email is far from dead; it’s actually an increasingly popular way for companies to maintain relationships with consumers. But it really hasn’t been an effective way to deliver dynamic real-time ads that can serve up impressions to advertisers and bring in revenue for publishers. But LiveIntent, a New York City-based startup, is poised to change all that with a real-time ad serving technology for email.

The company is announcing the release of LiveIntent for Publishers on Wednesday, a self-serve tool that allows companies that send out email newsletters, notifications and other communications  to place ads served up in real time like display ads. They can now manage their email ad inventory in much the same way they handle display advertising, deciding whether to run in-house ads for marketing purposes or third-party ads to drive revenue.

LiveIntent has overcome some of the barriers of advertising in emails, which don’t support iframes, JavaScript, Flash (s adbe) and cookies consistently. That has prevented the kind of ad serving that brings fresh and targeted ads to email that’s the norm online. But LiveIntent has managed to break through these barriers and can now serve up ads based on the context of when the email is opened. That means an ad can reflect the time of day and other cues and remains fresh no matter when it’s opened. A publisher drops live tags into their email newsletters and notifications that provide information about the recipient include age range, income, geography and what kind of device the email is being viewed on. LiveIntent then enforces rules set by the publisher and serves the appropriate ads from its server.

With LiveIntent for Publishers, companies can now achieve total sell-through of their email ad inventory, something that was extremely hard to do before. And they can fetch higher CPMs than if they tried to place ads themselves. If they want to control their own ads, they can do so themselves through LFP, or they can tap LiveIntent’s real-time premium ad exchange, which allows advertisers, agencies, demand-side platforms and trading desks to bid on these impressions.

For advertisers, they can now effectively target specific email audiences and different times of the day with dynamic and rich media ads that can be spread out over many publishers. It can simplify the work for advertising operations employees and provide them with reach with some premium publishers including MSNBC, (s cmcsa)(s ge) Newsweek/Daily Beast and Medianews, which are some of the companies that have been using LiveIntent for Publishers in beta.

LiveIntent makes money by taking a cut of the revenues from publishers. Matt Keiser, CEO and co-founder of LiveIntent, said companies can turn their email inventory into revenue generators by leveraging LiveIntent. He said there’s a huge opportunity in email advertising that hasn’t been tapped yet, with 225 million Americans using email, increasingly on mobile devices. He said it could be up to an $11 billion opportunity if publishers can get average revenue per user similar to online display ads.

“We’re not so bold to say we’re creating an entirely new business model, but what we’re doing is we’re tapping into the ecosystem that exists. The killer app on the Internet and the killer app on mobile is email. People are more receptive to email marketing from commercial entities than they are compared to any other method. Email is the best place for a commercial company to reach you,” he said.

LiveIntent raised $8 million in September in a Series B funding round led by Shasta Ventures. It has raised a total of about $13 million from  Battery Ventures, First Round Capital, Lerer Ventures and Grape Arbor.

I think there’s a big opportunity in serving up real-time ads into email. As I wrote before with Movable Ink, another New York company bringing live content to email, emails start becoming stale the moment they’re sent and don’t reflect the latest information. But ads that are context-aware and live provide a sizable advertising opportunity and an appealing way for publishers to start making money from their emails. There’s always the danger that this can turn off readers and prompt them to open emails less but I think for many people, they’re still used to checking emails, and this is a chance to really capitalize on what’s been a largely untapped opportunity.