Katana’s 2015 Year in Review

Programmatic Advertising Trends, Advertising Trends

2015 was a big year for us here at Katana.

Three years ago, our founding team came together with a purpose: to marry each of our 10+ years of digital media experience with the latest available industry advancements and approaches available to launch what our clients now call a “next generation” digital media company. We are blessed to see that this last year – after our first “product development and launch” year and our second “let’s stabilize” year – has truly been our “come to the party” year.

I don’t want to spend this note talking about our wonderful new office, the growth of our Katana family, new clients, etc. Instead, I would like to spend a little time reflecting on the intersection of advancements in our industry and how Katana has been responding to them to provide our clients with new levels of sophistication.

Unlocking Data

The primary headline of 2015 was that marketers have finally awoken to the fact that they have an existing flow of value via their customer bases, web site traffic, and other sources of data, which can be used for the most relevant targeting approach in paid media campaigns. However, I would say that 9 out of 10 marketers still don’t know that their best approach to reaching prospective and past customers resides in their own set of wall/databases. In 2015, discussions about 1st party data were front and center for us: What data is available, how to unlock it, how to categorize it, and how and when to apply it. From a business consulting standpoint, it has been fascinating to help enterprises unlock their data value and apply it in a way that greatly benefits their paid media campaigns.

We’ve been successfully warehousing and activating our clients’ data through our Data Management Platform. Through the platform, we have also been overlaying our 3rd party data sources to enrich any data to a level that allows us to reach users across all necessary channels and track them cross-device. We’ve had some great successes. With one consumer electronics company,  we took their customer databases and found deeper demographic insights and cross-device behaviors to effectively message users.

If you have worked with us, you know that a significant differentiator of our campaigns is that our technologies and methodologies for campaign execution are rooted in the identification and creation of the largest amount of relevant audience segments possible. We went into the year with analysis and correlation of five data layers. Well, we worked hard and have now reached a total of 31 audience variables that are being analyzed in real-time. As a result, we’re able to generate more cross-logic, millions more data points, and deeper custom audience segments.  

With the political season upon us, we have been able to develop a robust, nationwide audience pool of voters, giving us the ability to enable any politically oriented marketer to reach users based on data points such as voter history, party affiliation, donation history, etc.

New Offerings

Another major milestone for us in 2015 was the ability to launch our ITTT platform. ITTT stands for “If This Then That.” This concept allows us to correlate various forms of data in any way that ads are being shown automatically based on any desired external trigger. As an example, in our weather campaign for a home product manufacturer, ads were shown to specific geographic areas only if a certain level of weather pattern has occurred for three days in a row. The ITTT concept is limitless and allows us to feed, correlate and trigger any number of data points into a campaign.

As programmatic and real-time advertising continues to proliferate, increasing specialization and deeper refinements in the industry are unstoppable. One of our successful areas of focus in 2015 was the advancement of our technology ecosystem into what we call a multi-DSP access point to ad inventory. This has given our campaigns another layer of benefit, as we have now integrated specialists DSPs of certain inventory sources. Many marketers don’t know that two or more DSPs could have access to the same ad inventory, but with different priorities and price preferences when it comes to accessibility. Thus, we have seen overall prices fall and win-bid rates go up in meaningful fashion.

Following the theme of addition of ad inventory, we are extremely excited to have launched our offering in Programmatic Television just in time for the new year. Yes, you heard correctly, Katana – your DIGITAL paid media partner –  is now able to execute TV commercials – real TV commercials and not only video ads. How is this possible, you might ask? Well, simply because more and more TV’s are connected to the Internet and each one of the cable boxes or Apple TVs you own has an IP address. Though we are early adopters to this evolution, the sophistication with which these TV campaigns can be executed is already significantly above what has been done historically, with audience specific targeting versus contextual targeting, real-time data versus delayed post-campaign data, accelerated creative insertion versus standard processes. And much more to come.  

For as long as we have existed, our orientation has been to build the most advanced technology framework for this “new world” of digital paid media consisting of real-time and programmatic inventory decisions. As a result, we have built an ever growing proprietary toolbox that not only allows us to run campaigns more efficiently but, even more importantly, with much more advanced tools than do providers that just tap into the available features of trading desks. One of the tools I would like to highlight that we completed last year is our Semantic Content technology. It gives us the ability to read, categorize, and archive websites via artificial technologies to create a significantly higher contextual targeting ability for campaigns versus standard site targeting abilities. As a result, our campaigns see less budget wasted, much lower rates of misplaced brand use, and ultimately a faster ramp up rate to optimal site lists.

Looking Forward

Last but not least, we’re launching our updated reporting platform. This is no “we show you some standard metrics of your campaigns in the cloud.” The platform is near real-time, with a 15min data push cadence and has the ability to be customized in any way.  Our large enterprise clients have told us they are most excited about the fact that it has a hierarchical approach to data access. So whether you love every piece of data or only the executive dashboard – we’ve got what you need. The system is being rolled out in pilot as you read this and we aim to have it fully integrated with all of our clients during Q2.

I hope you agree that I can be excited for what 2016 will bring based on the advancements we have made. In our pursuit of the title of most advanced digital paid media provider, we will continue to work hard to deliver the most advanced approaches to data modeling, technology use, and campaign methodologies. This intersection is what we strongly believe allows today’s marketers to not only take full advantage of what is available to them, but also to engage with their target audiences in the most relevant ways.


Off to the races in 2016 – cannot wait to connect with you,

Melissa Lopez