Kochava acquires database firm Thalamus to connect ad buyers and vendors

Kochava has acquired database maker Thalamus to connect ad buyers and vendors as the industry adjusts to a changing mobile app and games landscape. The acquisition price was not disclosed.

Sandpoint, Idaho-based Kochava will rename Thalamus’ service as the Kochava Media Index, which will allow Kochava to elevate the insights brands and publishers use to make purchasing decisions. The move is coming amid uncertainty about big platforms like iOS, as Apple is retiring its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) in the name of user privacy.

Kochava CEO Charles Manning said this acquisition is one of a number of deals taking place across the advertising, publisher, and mobile marketing industries as the ad tech sector gets ready for Apple’s big move. He said the the purchase of Thalamus puts in place a tool the advertising ecosystem needs in order to maintain the effectiveness of mobile advertising.

“We were planning to do this acquisition anyway,” Manning said. “And the IDFA change really just was an extra kicker on why this kind of thing is important in the ecosystem. Increasingly, we believe advertisers are having a harder time finding the inventory that moves the needle for them. We will roll this into a larger platform story that we’ve been on over the last several years.”

Specifically, Kochava hopes the acquisition will make it easier to match advertisers and media sources as Apple’s move makes it harder to execute performance advertising, which is specifically targeted at a single individual.

“This Thalamus acquisition is a mechanism to bring in a full directory and index about all of the different publishers in the ecosystem and provide something like a Yelp for advertisers, and augmenting that with merchandising and discovery tools so that advertisers can find them,” Manning said. “We’ve been building all of these software-as-a-service tools for publishers, as well as advertisers. We really believe there is interesting value in this directory and index.”

Kochava started out in 2011 as a mobile analytics firm for Facebook advertising, and focused on measuring the effectiveness of mobile ads. Manning said the company has evolved to become a real-time “omnichannel” measurement firm that can measure the effectiveness of ads on just about any platform.

Essential advertising tools

Above: The Kochava Media Index

Adding to Kochava’s Marketers Operating System platform (m/OS), the newly branded Kochava Media Index will be a comprehensive source for digital media purchasing decisions. The Media Index will connect buyers and sellers through a discovery experience that offers breadth, ease of use, and the industry’s most robust data about each media source, Manning said.

The acquisition diversifies Kochava’s solutions for the digital advertising ecosystem, letting brand advertisers compare and contrast different ad vendors based on key performance indicators and ratings, contract detail, minimum spend requirements, and campaign conversion goals.

With the index, advertisers can utilize filters or keywords to search and discover ad vendors across multiple channels to find the best partner. Ad vendor profile information includes company descriptions, pricing models, and verified contact information to reach out directly for more information.

Ad vendors can leverage the ad buyer database to find relevant and in-market prospects to grow their business. Ad buyer information includes company descriptions, company size, site traffic, social posts, and more.

Manning said when companies in the database claim their profiles, they can access their page analytics for in-depth insights that help them discover which brands are searching for their company profile or engaging with it. He added that this generates high-quality sources of lead generation to foster potential customers.

The new Kochava

The Kochava Media Index has 50,000 ad partners and media buying teams representing 90% of the AdAge top digital agencies list, as well as global brands. Kochava has clients across media, in apps such as travel and leisure, streaming media, quick-service restaurants, and others.

Garrett Gun founded Thalamus, which had a small team. Kochava has about 116 people.

As for the overall business of Kochava, Manning said, “We have continued to progress. Despite the pandemic, we’ve continued to grow and remain profitable as a business. And I am so grateful.”

Helping out publishers

“There’s a greater focus on tools that enable publishers who monetize through ads to do so in a way that is compliant with all these kinds of changing dynamics in the ecosystem,” said Manning. “In particular, mobile publishers who are monetizing through ads now have to contend at least on iOS with SKAd Network enabling that process.”

For publishers, Kochava will provide first-party measurement to publishers who are doing ad monetization. That’s distinct from what the company has been doing for advertisers.

“We’re enabling media buyers to find and plan their media sources and to understand metadata about those sources,” Manning said. “Metrics around the audiences that those media sources represent are things like our Kochava Traffic Index. Publishers can upload their first-party data on the segments that are applicable to them, and advertisers can find those segments of the audience and target them with the use of an IDFA.”

How Thalamus and the Kochava Media Index help with IDFA

Above: Apple CEO Tim Cook is a big privacy advocate.

Apple recently said it would retire the IDFA, which will limit targeted advertising in the name of preserving privacy for mobile users on iOS. Apple is offering its SKAd Network as a way to get some performance data (not in real time) and targeting results in a way that does not affect user privacy.

But Manning said this shift isn’t necessarily disruptive for Kochava. That’s because Kochava is positioning itself to provide tools for brands, advertisers, and publishers that need to manage all of their advertising and inventory — including effectively using SKAd Network.

“I would argue it’s disruptive to the whole industry. It’s absolutely a change in the whole space,” he said. “But it’s not disruptive in a way where, once there was a way to measure and now there is no way to measure. Instead, the way it’s disruptive is there once was a way to have record level measurement. Now, you can still measure, but it’s fundamentally different. And it’s going to affect every single person in the ecosystem in the process. And so what we’ve done over the course of the last several months is really retrofit our entire stack so that we can support SKAd Network (which is Apple’s kind of proposed approach to do ad measurement). And in so doing, we really endeavor to have the best implementation of SKAd Network in the industry. That was the focal point.”

Apple has also clarified the things measurement companies can do with respect to fingerprinting, or using details to identify users without the IDFA. Apple said it didn’t want advertisers or third-party companies to employ these workarounds, and Kochava will comply with Apple’s wishes, Manning said.

One of the consequences of the IDFA change is that advertisers will have to use much more sophisticated tools to analyze their own users.

Manning said, “We went all-in on our SKAd Network capability and then proceeded to provide advertisers with first-party measurement and analytics capabilities, which is totally allowable by Apple,” He said this is permitted because advertisers in those cases have already secured opt-in from their users.

“Being SKAd Network-certified, fundamentally, is going to be the difference between being able to monetize your app or not, based on this additional guidance from Apple,” Manning said. “So part of this Thalamus acquisition and why we’re doing the Kochava Media Index is to merchandise those publishers that are SKAd-certified and make them known to all the different advertisers out there.”

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