Why Do I Keep Seeing Kia Ads? How One Company Mines Big Data

May 3, 2016

Rhiza founder Josh Knauer runs a demonstration of his product, which helps link advertisers to the right media.
Credit Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

In a small, but growing office in Shadyside, Rhiza Founder and CEO Josh Knauer stood in front of a computer linked to the cloud and crunched big data for a Kia car dealer and a Pittsburgh TV station.

“Behind this very simple display of data are hundreds of billions of records of data that we are sifting through,” Kanuer said of the colorful mix of graphics and numbers on his screen. “And in a matter of seconds … we were able to get to results that had gone through those records and found just the ones that are relevant to this story for this television station and for this very local specific advertiser.”

For the last eight years Rhiza has been working on finding the best way to not only mine the data, but also to present the results.

“There are measurement data sets that have all of the car registrations’ data in the United States,” said Rhiza Chief Technology Officer Mike Higgins. “There are media measurement data sets that measure the different media opportunities. There are qualitative data sets that measure general, sort of, attitudes and opinions and demographics and psychographics. There are purchasing behavior data sets. Where do you start? What do you pick? Which ones are most relevant? Which ones have the most value?”

Those data include sets provided by Rhiza’s clients, sets purchased commercially, and information available to the general public. Rhiza crunches the numbers for organizations as big as the BBC and as small as an individual shop owner.

Knauer said finding the right mix of data gives Rhiza’s client, in this case the TV station, the competitive edge.

“The Sorento is the top Kia sold in this market but this dealership is only getting about 20 percent of the sales and they really should be getting more,” Knauer said. “So this is where the add seller gets a piece of information that allows them to then start a conversation with that advertiser, tell them something that they may not know and provide them with a solution.” 

Using a different set of data, the TV salesperson could then offer the dealer advertising slots during the programs people most likely to buy a Sorento are watching.

Liz Horvat is a media supervisor and digital strategist at the Pittsburgh-based marketing and communications agency Gatesman + Dave. She said the amount of data out there for ad sellers and buyers is growing and cannot be ignored.

“To kind of go backwards and not have access to all of the tools that let us get smart with placement and how we reach people, I don’t think that we could be as effective if this data didn’t exist,” said Horvat who uses big data every day but does not contract with Rhiza. 

Knauer agrees that the data is only going to get bigger and will grow in importance. He said how it’s mined and presented to customers is the secret behind Rhiza.

“Think of it as a cartoon strip if you will.  They can go frame by frame through and it tells a story that they want to tell about their business,” Knauer said.

In this week's Tech Headlines: 

  • With the help of a computational model developed at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, researchers have found more than 500 new protein-protein interactions associated with genes linked to schizophrenia. The findings were published online in npj SchizophreniaThe goals is to better understand the role of genes that have not been studied and the pathways and biological processes associated with the disease.
  • It's not only drones and driverless cars that may become the norm someday — ocean-faring ships might also run without captains or crews. The Pentagon on Monday showed off the world's largest unmanned surface vessel, a self-driving 132-foot ship able to travel up to 10,000 nautical miles on its own to hunt for stealthy submarines and underwater mines. The military's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, in conjunction with the Navy will be testing the ship off the San Diego coast over the next two years to observe how it interacts with other vessels and avoids collisions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.