Specific Media: the next big shot in online advertising?

specmedia.png We’ve heard that Specific Media, a large and rapidly growing online ad network, has raised $100 million in a round led by Francisco Partners. Specific Media intends to announce this next week.

The pre-money valuation, which our source said is around $200 million, underscores the intensity of interest in the online advertising market that remains in the wake of the large-to-massive acquisitions that have occurred over the recent months. Investors would love to grab a piece of the next big thing, and from the looks of it, Specific Media may have what it takes.

The company, which claims to rank in the top 5 online ad networks, has built a strategy around targeting high quality publishers and premium advertisers. It does this by offering its marquee advertisers access to an invite-only “premium network” of name brand publishers, including NBC, CBS, ESPN, and others. Invite-only systems are unusual in the online ad market, though both Yahoo and Google have toyed with them in the past. Specific Media’s biggest score to date is a 12-month campaign with Ford — a notably long-term commitment for a car company.

Specific Media says it differentiates itself by offering a full suite of targeting technologies. Like the behavioral ad network, TACODA, which AOL bought for $275 million, Specific Media uses cookies to track users across its network of over 200 million sites and show them ads based on the sites they’ve visited. Unlike TACODA, however, it also offers demographic targeting. It claims its Demographic Prediction System can predict each user’s age and gender, and show them ads accordingly. The company says its network of sites comprises the largest concentration of 18-34 year old males, whom advertisers love.

We’ve reached out to Francisco, but have yet to hear back. We’ll update when we know more.