On Jan. 4, 2012, Unruly Media announced a $25 million Series A investment from Amadeus Capital Partners, Van den Ende & Deitmers, and Business Growth Fund. Founded in 2006, Unruly has delivered a number of high profile social video campaigns for global brands, including industry classics like "The T-Mobile Dance”, "Evian Roller Babies” and Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" campaign as well as more recent initiatives like the "Coca-Cola Where Will Happiness Strike Next" series.
Unruly's series A round is one of the largest ever for a private company in the social video space and "will be used to accelerate international growth and cement Unruly's position as the global leader in this fast-growing area," according to a press release. Torch Partners and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP advised on the deal.
With 2011 full year revenue of $25 million and a revenue run-rate approaching $50 million, Unruly has also been profitable since 2009. The company has 100 staff across nine offices and is doubling in size each year.
Both brands and agencies recognize the power of social video to make an emotional connection with their audience, influence consumers, and ignite conversations. However, media fragmentation and device proliferation make it difficult to do this at the scale many require. Unruly solves this problem by providing a global media and technology platform for social video advertising that reaches 725 million people across 74 countries.
Unruly's proprietary technology, RAMP (Real-time Amplification and Measurement Platform), powers the entire social video campaign lifecycle and their Viral Video Chart is widely recognized as the Billboard Hot 100 of the Internet generation. I've written a couple of stories about Unruly for Search Engine Watch and mentioned the company in my book, YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour a Day.
An Interview With Unruly Media COO, Sarah Wood
I interviewed Unruly's COO and co-founder, Sarah Wood, about today's announcement via email. Wood was recently crowned "Female Entrepreneur of the Year" by the Fast Growth Business Awards. Here are my questions and her answers:
Q: What will $25 million enable Unruly Media to do that the company wasn't doing already? Add more staff, open more offices, further develop your proprietary technology platform, spend more on marketing, acquire other companies, take your clients to lunch, get even more unruly?
A: We've been profitable for 3 years and growing very fast so we didn't need to raise money to continue growing the company at our current rate, but we'd been approached so many times during 2011 that we realised there was an opportunity to raise a significant round in order to accelerate our international expansion.
We'll be using the funding to build out the development team and expand our international footprint. We'll be opening offices in Chicago and Miami during 2012 and will beef up our presence on the east and west coast. Plus we'll be continuing to expand in Europe, with an office in Berlin. We're also looking to set up shop in Asia over the next few months. In all, we plan to double headcount to around 200 in 2012.
Q: Recently, Unruly Media was involved in a brouhaha over a sponsored post for Google. First, congratulations on landing Google as a client. Second, any lessons learned from the hubbub?
First things first, we're really sorry that this mistake has led to Google demoting the Chrome homepage. This was an honest, innocent and accidental mistake by a single blogger who failed to use the nofollow attribute on a link to Google Chrome. In following their own policy to the letter, Google has done the right thing and behaved impeccably.
Unruly never requires bloggers to link to back to an advertiser's site. That's because we're in the business of video advertising not search engine marketing, so link juice is irrelevant to our business model. We don't ask for it, we don't pay for it, and we don't track it. In line with FTC and EU regulations, Unruly always requires that bloggers clearly disclose any post, tweet, or other reference to the video as being sponsored. We also request that if they do link anywhere they use nofollow, both because that's best practice and also because it's in their own interest to do so.
In the case of the Google Chrome blog post, this was an honest mistake, which we rectified as soon as we were told about it.
In terms of lessons learned, we are working on two parallel fronts. First, we are reiterating our policy to bloggers in the Unruly network regarding the mandatory use of the nofollow attribute in sponsored posts. We'll also be providing technical guidance to bloggers on how to implement the no follow attribute. Additionally, our engineering team is building automated checks and balances into RAMP (Real-time Amplification and Measurement Platform) that will reduce the risk of nofollow attributes being left out of posts.
Q: Six years ago, everyone in this emerging industry was trying to create a hit that would make the Viral Video Chart. Today, Unruly Media describes itself as "the global platform for social video advertising." How did viral video evolve into social video, or is this a distinction without a difference?
A: What's spurred the evolution from viral to social video is the fact that savvy brands have discovered the long term potential of creating engaging video series or epic ad campaigns that people want to talk about and build an affinity with over a period of months, or years in the case of T-Mobile's Life's For Sharing campaign. The most effective campaigns turn casual customers into lifelong friends and passive consumers into vocal brand advocates, and that's where social video really demonstrates its full power.
The success of social video is evidenced by its triple-digit growth. Social video campaigns generated 2.7 billion views in 2010, more than 8 billion views in 2011 and are predicted to generate 20 billion views in 2012.
Q: We have all watched some of Unruly Media's greatest hits for some of the world's leading global brands, including Evian's "Roller Babies", T-Mobile's "Life's for Sharing" viral sensation, and Old Spice's "Man Your Man Could Smell Like" campaign. Can you tell us about one of your other successful social video campaigns that increased sales for an unlikely brand?
A: The beauty of social video is its ability to work for both the Fortune 100 company and the brand you have never even heard of. The big brands don't need to be sexy and youth-oriented – Barclays Waterslide campaign and Compare the Market Insurance both showed that, while the runaway online success of Californian taxidermist, Chuck Testa, shows that even the smallest brands can make a big splash on the social web.
Q: Finally, Unruly distributes social video campaigns across platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, premium publisher sites, influential blogs and mobile applications. Do you see Google+ or other platforms joining this list in 2012?
A: Absolutely. It's already possible to share content on the Unruly player via Google+ and as LinkedIn and Google+ become more prominent platforms for sharing branded content, we'll be making it as easy as possible for viewers to share content across these and other burgeoning platforms. With video consumption shifting across to tablet and mobile devices, we are continuing to invest significant development time ensuring that our distribution strategy is platform-agnostic.