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Sample from Spongecell's Ad Gallery. Source: Spongecell, Inc. (gallery.spongecell.com)

Sunday’s Super Bowl was the most-watched event in the history of television, but more telling than the number of viewers was the way in which they watched. About 45 percent of Americans who own tablets or smartphones watched the game with an eye on their second screen, conversing on Facebook and Twitter. During the halftime show and in the final minutes of the game, viewers generated over 10,000 tweets per second.

This trend is indicative of the way we’re consuming content every day and a signal to brands on how they should be engaging with their audiences. Brands are connecting with consumers through digital advertising that includes social media features and other interactive components. This increases engagement and connects with consumers in ways with which they’re comfortable. Brand strategies such as rich media ads can feature “like” buttons and selected tweets from Twitter feeds, as well as more traditional media, such as video. This powerful combination creates ads that draw more attention and engagement. The numbers don’t lie: 96 percent of people take notice of these interactive ads. What’s more, these ads can better target relevant demographics with features that are most likely to drive longer interactions and then measure and report consumer engagement in real time.

As a result, rich media advertising is booming. In 2009, rich media ads represented only 11 percent of the display advertising market. That number is up to 30 percent today, and it is predicted that half of all display advertising will be rich media by 2015 and revenue will grow to $27.6 billion in 2016. As ad budgets shrink, agencies are seeking the best exposure for their client’s dollar. Increasingly, they find it in online interactive ads.

On Tuesday, we announced our latest partner companySpongecell, a New York City-based advertising technology company that turns standard banner ads into dynamic ads with rich media features like video and social media feeds. Clients like Dell, Proctor & Gamble, Volvo, and Kraft are all exploring the possibilities of digital ads, and Spongecell is well positioned to capitalize on this boom in ad tech interest.

Spongecell’s technology platform provides further incentive for boosting traditional banner ads with social media. Their ads use existing banner ad real estate and increase engagement 25 to 50 percent. Most Spongecell ads are generated in 24 to 72 hours, allowing companies to keep pace with the speed of social media. Analytics allow companies to better understand their audiences and increase the effectiveness of engagement efforts.

Safeguard is not new to the Internet and New Media space. Other partner companies in this space include: Beyond.com, Bridgevine, MediaMath, Swap.com, and ThingWorx.

Safeguard led a $10 million Series B financing for Spongecell. This financing will be used to fund Spongecell’s continued expansion into other Internet-connected devices, including smartphones, tablets, TVs, and perhaps even gaming consoles. As social media and mobile technology create a more connected world, companies can build stronger brands by joining the conversation.