Adzerk, whose APIs help clients build custom digital ad platforms, has raised USD$11m (£8.2m) in funding as part of a Series A round.
With the new funding, Adzerk is rebranding to “Kevel,” while leaning into the burgeoning market for digital companies looking to build, maintain and control in-house ad monetisation platforms.
Specifically Kevel helps a wide range of digital publishers, social networks and e-commerce marketplaces integrate sponsored listings, native ads and internal promotions into their sites and apps. These companies can tap into Kevel’s customisable ad serving APIs without having to lean on inflexible out-of-the-box solutions or spend years building the ad platform themselves.
Among the investors participating in this round are Fulcrum Equity, Commerce Ventures, Math Capital, Food Retail Ventures and multiple angels.
Founded in 2009, Kevel has long helped digital companies build and manage their own ad platforms, as an alternative to relying on programmatic-focused ad servers managed by industry giants like Google. In addition, Kevel has spent years building out sophisticated APIs, making it easy for clients to design the exact ad product they want for displaying any type of sponsored content.
Now, as a growing number of digital businesses are looking for more freedom and ownership of their ad tech stack - or incorporate advertising for the first time - these companies are increasingly looking to develop custom, in-house monetisation solutions rather than simply plugging into existing third-party ad tech tools.
For example, retailers such as Walmart, Target, Etsy and Instacart -- hoping to replicate Amazon’s success with advertising -- have recently added promoted listings to their sites and apps, along with self-serve buying portals, aiming to help partners better promote their products while also helping shoppers discover relevant items.
Similarly, recommendation sites, social communities and other digital media firms are seeking ways to increase revenue while better leveraging their audience and data via custom, native ad products, similar to Facebook’s Promoted Posts and TikTok’s new video ads.
The difficulty with building such custom, internal ad products is that standard third-party ad servers don’t work for them, while building it from scratch could take years and cost millions.
This is where Kevel comes in, providing the speed of an out-of-the-box solution with the customisation of an in-house platform. Kevel’s APIs allow companies to outsource the complex parts of ad serving - targeting, decisioning, and reporting - and focus instead on innovating the ad product, like building a self-serve UI, brainstorming new places for sponsored content, and more.
Kevel’s goal is to help companies quickly build custom ad platforms so these brands can drive new revenue and help take back the Internet from the industry ad tech giants. Their tools offer publishers more freedom to build what they want; more action to start making new revenue quickly; and more humanity to monetise with ads that aren’t terrible.
“Over the past few months, we’ve seen huge demand from partners looking to take their audiences and user experiences into their own hands,” said James Avery, Kevel’s founder and CEO. “They are attracted to the idea of helping their partners better promote products, and of course everyone is looking for alternative revenue streams. But they come to us specifically because we’re offering a better option than simply handing over their ad business to the tech giants.”
Kevel already powers promoted listings and native ads for companies such as Ticketmaster, Imgur, WeTransfer, and Strava. But as more publishers and especially retailers see an opportunity to tap into the emerging USD$17bn ecommerce ad market (per eMarketer), Kevel anticipates a significant customer expansion. This is especially true with COVID-19 driving spikes in digital engagement - making the need to monetise that growing user base all the more important.
“The digital economy is booming, Most big established digital retailers or communities who want to roll out their own custom ad product don’t want to make any compromises,” said James. “Their audience connection is everything, so they want to maintain a great user experience. At the same time, it’s hard for them to justify the resources and thirty engineers to build out that in-house ad platform. Kevel gives them the best of both worlds - the ability to build custom ad products in just weeks - delivering a brand new revenue stream.”