IMMI — the ad company wants to follow you around

Integrated Media Measurement, a start-up in San Mateo, Calif., wants to make advertising on broadcast media more efficient, by following you around, tracking everything you listen to every day.

Integrated Media, also known as IMMI, recruits people to carry a special cellphone at all times for two years, according to a NYT piece about the company. In exchange, it pays all their cellphone costs. The phone captures 10 seconds of audio from its surroundings every half-minute, detecting what people are listening too, whether it is a TV program, radio, digital video recorder or even a sporting event or concert. IMMI then uses acoustic matching technology to filter through these snippets comparing them with samples of the media being measured.

IMMI says this is enough to measure the number of participants who have heard an advertisement. IMMI also says it can track whether people make retail purchases after viewing or hearing an ad.

This is a somewhat spooky approach to advertising measurement, but then existing technology isn’t that effective, and large advertising agencies and broadcasters are looking for something more. IMMI’s approach is much more detailed than Nielsen Media Research, the dominant company providing such measurement, and which relies on household surveys.

It’s not clear how effective IMMI’s cellphones recordings are, however, because reception can be patchy, as can audio detection in many situations.

Steve Jurvetson, a venture capitalist at the firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, was the primary investor in IMMI. His firm and Advanced Technology Ventures invested $14 million in the company. The Times suggests the four-year old company is making headway, having signed up ten clients.

Tom Zito, IMMI’s chief executive, has a track-record. He launched four other companies, including Axlon, a robotic-toy company that went public, and online record label Garageband.

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