Strata Strives For New One In Branding Effort, Wants To Bring 'Order' To Media 'Chaos'

The computer systems that Madison Avenue uses to plan, buy, process and pay for media have historically been referred to as "back office" systems, because they typically were the unseen, backbone of ad agency operations. But over the past couple of years, a high-profile war among the ad industry's top media processing systems has brought them into the limelight, especially aggressive, well-financed upstart MediaBank, and industry stalwart Donovan Data Systems. Today, a third major player, Strata, will make some noise via new branding campaign, and Web site designed to make the industry aware of the depth and breadth of Strata systems they may already use, but may not necessarily have associated with the 25-year-old company.


"We've always had a stealth approach to marketing," notes Joy Baer, executive vice president of Strata, who was part of a team that worked with ad agency Brand New World to help reposition that approach.

By stealth, Baer means that many of Strata's most dynamic and popular media processing systems were essentially "private-labeled" under names that were associated with industry associations or trade groups, or simply had a generic connotation, such as or While that approach worked well in the days when systems providers were expected to stick to their knitting, and quietly service agencies and media vendors, the higher profile battle being waged in recent years has led Strata to step out of the shadows and make some noise.



"We're yelling about it now," boasts President-CEO John Shelton, pointing to the new Strata logo that graces its main online presence, The mark, designed by Brand New World, depicts the Strata name in the foreground of a frenetically designed, wiry looking image that agency CEO Alan Feldenkris says evokes Strata's core mission: "Bringing order to chaos."

The Strata team says that has always been their mission, and that the new campaign is intended to draw attention to how, when and where Strata is, or has been doing that.

Strata, for example, is the backbone for one of the highest profile new media processing systems in the TV industry: Canoe Ventures new addressable TV, and interactive TV buying infrastructure, which will be rolled out early next year.

Feldenkris says the campaign evolved from primary research, including a survey of agency executives utilizing Strata systems, which found that they are in dire need of solutions providers who can develop technology that helps them manage an increasingly complex and fragmented media universe that has spawned a virtually unlimited number of media-buying options. "The new mark symbolizes pulling that all together," he says.

The redesigned Web site reinforces that, he adds, but also provides new functionality, including centralized access to a disparate array of free-standing Strata system Web sites, such as, and

One of the strengths Strata will be crowing about, is its ties to parent Comcast Corp., and its relationship with big software provides such as Microsoft Corp.

All of Strata's systems are built on Microsoft platforms, which Shelton says is the primary platform used by agencies to conduct their internal operations. In terms of digital media planning and buying, for example, he says that Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet program still is the primary way that digital media planners build their plans. That's become a growing concern among senior agency managers, he says, because they are recognizing the need to have a centralized system for handling the digital media planning process.

That's much of where the recent focus has been at Chicago-based MediaBank, and at Donovan, which has been developing new versions of its digital media processing system, iDesk, to specifically address those agency planning and workflow issues.

For Strata's part, Shelton says it will continue to compete with its high-profile competitors, but does not like being compared directly with them, because he says Strata sill prefers a customized, client-centric approach to developing and servicing agency systems.

That approach seems to be working. In addition to servicing an ample array of trade groups ranging from Canoe to the Television Bureau of Advertising's ePort system, Strata handles some pretty big independent media services shops, including the biggest, Horizon Media, as well as industry pioneer Dennis Holt's U.S. International Media. That said, Shelton claims Strata services at least some piece of the system needs of virtually every major agency, and he sees that roll has expanding with the explosion of interactive TV buying systems that are expected to proliferate over the next several years. And that, he says, is Strata's core expertise vis a vis its competition.

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