Because consumers have always been blasted by advertisements in every single corner of their lives, it's hard to imagine an advertisement as something that would actually provide value. But Gift Connect has imagined such a thing, and has raised $5.1 million in Series B from Hubert Burda Media to make the dream a reality. The company recently pivoted from the brand All Start Deals, which was a Groupon-style platform for celebrities, athletes, music stars, etc. However, turns out those big name stars weren't excited about the idea of associating half-off discounts with their brands, and so All Star Deals re-focused on the idea of Gifts. Now called Gift Connect, the service acts like any other advertising platform, with brands looking to advertise and publishers who send those ads out to their audiences. However, the ads themselves are actually gifts from brands, and the publishers are sports teams, musical artists, or other affinity groups. The idea is that a brand like Papa John's could create a very targeted campaign in which it offers $10 of Papa John's pizza to all Philadelphia Flyers fans. The Flyers can send out a link with the gift to their Facebook or Twitter followers, and they have control over whether or not the link is active for followers only or can be re-shared from that audience to their friends, followers, etc. "The reason we call it a gift, as opposed to a discount, is that we don't require any other purchase," said founder Mark Levin. "It's a gift, free and clear. It's not a coupon." The gift can also be shared in print, on a website, on the radio, or through any other touchpoint, according to Levin. The platform works on a performance-basis, where the publisher gets paid on every redemption or action that's taken. The split between Gift Connect and their publishers is 50/50, and Levin sees it as a brand new way of advertising. He calls it gift-tizing, and says that the biggest challenge ahead will be educating folks on the value of this type of advertising. "It's new and people have to digest it," said Levin. Before this Series B round, the company had raised $1.7 million for All Star Deals. To learn more about Gift Connect, check out the website here.
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