Unruly Media Scores $25 Million in Funding, Ices Google Chrome Black Eye

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ADOTAS – London-based video social video advertising platform Unruly Media announced this morning it had secured $25 million in funding, following the closing of a Series A round. Investors in what Unruly says is the biggest investment round ever for a private social video company include Amadeus Capital Partners, Van den Ende & Deitmars and the British Growth Fund.

Unruly plans to use the funds to expand globally — it already has offices in London, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Sydney, and in a phone conversation today, CEO Scott Button cited Miami and Toronto as a couple of other cities the company’s eyeing. In general, he said, Unruly’s looking to reach into continents it hasn’t reached before. The company has “great relationships in North America and Europe, but not [Asia-Pacific],” he explained. “It looks very different over there,” because of a social media landscape that isn’t dominated by Facebook hegemony. Being present in varied geographical locations is important, he said, because “we’ll build up local media relationships on the ground. Our model is to hire teams that are embedded locally.”

Founded in 2006, Unruly Media has executed over 1,400 video ad campaigns, and its “greatest hits” roll boasts the Old Spice “Man Your Man Could Smell Like,”  the T-Mobile “Life’s for Sharing,” the Coca-Cola “Happiness Factory” and the Evian “Roller Babies” campaigns. The company claims 2.7 billion views in 2o10 and over 8 billion in 2011, and it projects 20 billion in 2012. That’s a lot of visibility, but because of the nature of its business, a lot of people probably didn’t hear the company’s name at all until earlier this week, when it was implicated in what we could call the Google Chrometroversy. In a sentence or two, it’s like this: On Monday, while most nine-to-fivers were out of the office, SEO Book and Search Engine Land pointed out a Google search for “Google Chrome” pulled up over 400 pages of content bearing the phrase “this post is sponsored by Google” — disclosure that Google requires for any sponsored posts — and that one of them failed to include a required “do not follow” link back to Google Chrome. Turns out digital media agency Essence Digital was working with Google on a Chrome video ad, and Essence brought in Unruly to carry out the campaign. The whole Chrometroversy hinged on the fact that Google had penalized other companies — including J.C. Penney, Forbes, Overstock and BeatThatQuote.com, a company Google owned and subsequently banned — for improper disclosure. And Unruly naturally caught some of the heat. It wasn’t the best timing for a black eye, as today’s funding announcement demonstrated. But Button was adamant that Google had acted properly, Unruly had acted properly and that the rumblings would die down shortly. “If it were any other brand, there would be no story here,” Button said. “The narrative is, ‘Will they, won’t they?’ Well, they have. Google’s behavior here has been exemplary.” In fact, Google went ahead and demoted Chrome’s PageRank for 60 days. And criticism of any links in the video ads, Button said, is unwarranted. “Because [the video] is embedded in Javascript, it’s completely benign.

“It’s really unfortunate,” Button said of the rogue blogger’s failure to insert a “do not follow” link. “We should have caught it through manual vetting.” As it is, he said, Unruly’s platform is set to scan websites for these kinds of issues. “That’s one of the reasons our platform is so strong and so safe,” he said. “We’ve always been on the leading edge of best practice, and best practice evolves constantly.”

In retrospect, it appears the Chrome blog flap didn’t indicate a broader, systemic issue, and as we’d mentioned earlier, it’s crummy timing for Unruly to implicated just as the company was set to announce its plans for global expansion. In this case, the only thing unruly about the video ad platform was its name.

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