Videoplaza plots ‘device-agnostic’ future for ads

Ad delivery firm Videoplaza is taking the wraps off a new system that it says will help advertisers and media companies make money from their content on every device in the market — without having to cope with the headache of managing them all.

Called Karbon, it’s a complete rebuild of the company’s existing service that is intended to let media companies more easily incorporate and serve ads across a wide range of different platforms — whether it’s smart TVs, Flash-based systems, HTML5 or something else entirely.

The idea, apparently, is to liberate video companies from the pain of trying to predict where users are going to be and let them focus on delivering content.

“We felt that as publishers were having to add more and more devices, it was getting so complex that after a while, they end up just sticking to the platforms they have,” CEO Sorosh Tavakoli told me.

“But you don’t want to define your audience by their devices: you want to define them by their demographics or their interests. If you’re a publisher you don’t care what system people use, you just want to be wherever the audience is.”

The company says that beta testers have already achieved around 30 percent efficiency from using the system, since they have to worry less about specific technologies and can hit larger audiences without extra hassle.

But of course in order for clients to stop worrying about devices, Videoplaza has to do a lot of worrying about devices for them. Karbon is based on a vast library of more than 7,000 devices and systems that it can identify and automatically serve video ads to — as well as on a system to prepare for devices that haven’t yet been released.

This futureproofing, says Tavakoli, means that eventually media owners will not have to think about where their ads are going at all — just who is on the other end.

“About a year ago it became clear that the PC was just one of many devices where video would live,” he says. “In the end I had to slam my hand on the table. This is not about building a couple of features; it’s really that we have to stop talking about ‘online video’ and start taking a device-agnostic approach.”

Karbon is another attempt to grab a big slice of the video ad market by a company that has been trying a variety of different approaches since it was founded in Stockholm in 2008. The company won’t disclose discrete numbers, but says ads served are in the billions and growth for the past two years has been around 500 percent — plus it now has offices in London, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona and Singapore.

With early backers, including Northzone Ventures and Creandum, funding $15 million — and a fresh injection of $12 million raised earlier this year from Qualcomm and Innovacom — Videoplaza hopes it can expand into new markets and become a trusted guide for media companies as Internet-based video moves further and further into the living room.

And that critical market is unlikely to get much less complicated, despite the desire of the TV companies producing Internet-connected sets.

“Nobody knows how this is going to play out,” says Tavakoli. “You’ve got IPTV, you’ve got games consoles, you’ve got streaming from the iPad to the TV set. There are so many ways to get video on your TV set already. There is currently an overhype in smart TVs, but in the end there’s going to be a mix.”