By: Anthony Ha
New York City-based startup Uru is working on a new way for video publishers to make money. Imagine watching a normal-looking online video — except that on some of the surfaces (say, on the cabinet behind the stars of a cooking video), you’ll see logos or other art promoting a sponsor.
Okay, that might actually sound a bit annoying, but Uru co-founder and CEO Bill Marino argued that it’s a better fit with videos — not to mention emerging media like augmented and virtual reality — than most traditional forms of advertising.
“We are headed towards these more immersive mediums,” Marino said. “AR and VR are coming pretty swiftly, so we need to rethink how brands are presented inside these mediums. It has to be a lot more seamless and harmonious with the content.”
We’re already starting to see that with custom, sponsored videos, but Marino said that it’s “just not scalable” for creators to always work directly with advertisers and shoot new videos for each one of them.
Uru also says that in a study conducted by a researcher at the Center for Behavioral Research at New York University’s Stern School of Business, the new formats resulted in 80 percent better brand recall than existing video ad formats.
The company is announcing that it has raised $700,000 in “pre-seed” funding led by Notation Capital, with participation from Betaworks, PJC, Rough Draft, Thatcher Bell, Christian Noske, Giphy CEO Alex Chung, Chris Cunningham of C2 Ventures and Eric Franchi of Undertone.
Marino and his co-founder/CTO Brunno Attorre met at the Cornell Tech Startup Studio, where they won the Startup Award. In fact, they said they’re the first Startup Award winner to raise institutional funding.
Marino told me that Uru’s technology isn’t just looking for flat, logo-friendly surfaces — it’s also “content aware.”
“We identify the objects in [a video and] we identify higher level themes,” he said. “That’s really, really important. None of us want to see a Coors logo in a David Lynch film.”
That means Uru isn’t limited to a single ad format. For example, Marino said it can identify the moments in a video where there’s a natural break, making an opportune spot for mid-roll video ads.
The startup is still in the early stages of signing up advertisers and publishers, but it’s already held discussions with adtech company AppNexus. In a quote provided by Uru, AppNexus Senior Vice President of Technology Eric Hoffert said: “We are excited about the novel approach Uru is taking to make video advertising more seamless with content to improve user experience.”
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