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Denuo Makes Bet on User-Created Ads

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NEW YORK Publicis Groupe consultancy Denuo disclosed its latest partnership in emerging media, adding user-created advertising platform ViTrue to its portfolio.

The deal calls for Denuo to introduce the ViTrue service to Publicis agencies and clients, while also helping the Atlanta startup refine its platform, which lets brands tap the public's creativity for advertising executions.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. In previous partnerships with startups, Denuo has received equity. Tim Hanlon, a senior vice president at Denuo, declined to say if the ViTrue deal involved equity, noting, "If said companies do well, then we will do well."

ViTrue is the latest emerging tech company in Denuo's portfolio, joining broadband video platform Brightcove, video-advertising network Lightningcast (subsequently bought by AOL) and 3-D digital imaging company Reactrix, among others.

"The future of the media and advertising business is probably not going to come as much from the incumbents of today than from newer and more entrepreneurial companies on the edges," Hanlon said.

ViTrue has hitched its wagon to consumer-generated advertising. In its first promotion, ViTrue helped Sony Pictures attract "thousands" of video submissions for The Benchwarmers from users depicting their experiences as nerds. The company is currently working on similar promotions for Moe's Southwest Grill, a burrito franchise, and snack-food maker Lance.

Looking to the general public for involvement in ad creation is not a threat to agencies, said CEO Reggie Bradford.

"I see an opportunity where the agency will still drive the creative look and feel of a brand," he said. "I just think the users can augment that and enhance it."

Hanlon said Denuo seeks portfolio companies in areas with the most promise to revolutionize advertising, such as the meeting of consumer-generated content and marketers. Like venture capitalists, Denuo expects many of its investments will not pan out.

"[Denuo] enables Publicis Groupe to have a flank strategy toward the future," he said. "It signals to [Publicis] agencies that the future is happening very fast and we need to innovate faster."