Spot Runner is raising money at high valuation, announces political ads

Spot Runner, a company that gives local businesses an easy way to buy ads for TV programming, is getting so much interest from investors that its raising money at a valuation in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

We haven’t confirmed the exact planned valuation, but it so high, according to our sources, that early investor Battery Ventures has proposed to sell a portion of shares — enough so that it will reap the full amount of its original investment plus a small profit. Neither the company nor Battery Ventures’ Roger Lee would comment, but Lee said Spot Runner has received a lot of interest, and is considering various options.

Separately, the company announced a program today that lets politicians create TV ads for as little as $500 and target them to particular demographics in the regions — cities, neighborhoods, etc — where they are running for office. Spot Runner is a cheaper way for political campaigns to advertise, because normal advertising on cable and network TV requires considerable advice from consultants about things like how to make the ads, costing thousands of dollars. Spot Runner offers ready-made ads that can be customized by each user.

The company has raised at least $50 million in backing in two rounds over the past two years, from big advertising players like WPP, CBS Corporation, Interpublic Group and investment bank Allen & Co.

Spot Runner’s model is compelling because of its simple online, self-serve method of selling ads. It helps smaller business owners overcome the complexities of producing a video and buying air time, which can be daunting. We first wrote about the company here, and described it this way:

The local business owner goes to the Spot Runner site, picks a business category and then chooses from among thousands of generic, pre-taped video ads. Each ad comes with pre-written voice-over text that can be customized. Once the business has picked an ad, it tells Spot Runner how much it wants to spend on air time and which media markets it wants the ad to run in.

That was two years ago. So how has it been able to make headway when giants like Google and others have since started trying to do the same thing? First, Spot Runner, was early. It started three years ago. Automating the TV creative and media buying process is a hard technology problem, and requires focus. Finally, is requires developing close relationships with MSOs (the operators of cable television) and broadcasters, which Spot Runner has worked on.

The company says it has “thousands” of clients, and that its revenue is growing rapidly.

In the past few months, the company has added the following executives:

- Mark Rosenthal – ex Pres of MTV and COO of IPG is now Vice Chairman
– Joanne Bradford – ex Chief Media Officer of MSN is now EVP, National Sales
– Sam Paisely – ex CFO of ValueClick is now the CFO


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