Acxiom has been around for 43 years, but this year was the first time the consumer data powerhouse joined the ranks of companies at Advertising Week in New York this week. Like lots of firms, Acxiom sees a huge opportunity in providing data and related services to brand marketers and ad agencies who lately seem insatiably hungry for it.
The firm has its roots in CRM and direct marketing, which has more recently translated to email marketing data services. Its over-arching goal, however, is to help advertisers employ data gathered anywhere - through TV set top boxes, mobile and online interactions, CRM systems, or other places - to inform media buys and marketing efforts at all touch points. For instance, the company can connect TV set top box data compiled from several sources with household data to increase audience targeting efficiency.
"It's a pretty audacious vision," said Acxiom CMO Tim Suther, who spoke with ClickZ on Thursday. Suther reaffirmed what seems to be a consensus among data-driven marketers: "I don't think there's a company in the world who can say they're using a consistent data set to inform targeting across the board."
Typically, marketers use data collected in one channel to inform efforts in that same channel, rather than using it to inform campaigns or interactions in other channels.
Acxiom also wants to help brands and publishers fully monetize the value of the data they collect and store. "The value of data is unevenly distributed," said Suther. Today it's the intermediaries - third-party ad systems and others - that are turning data into revenue, he argued, noting that brands and publishers complain that they're not getting their due. Meanwhile, of course, some consumers and privacy watchdogs think they should be able to monetize the data they create.
The company manages more than six billion unique records on behalf of clients such as Macys, Citi, and General Motors, such as customer loyalty data, customer segmentation, consumer research, and online interaction information. Its data centers are located in Arkansas. "There isn't a data set that we don't have experience with," said Suther.
Acxiom also works with DSPs and agencies - working with them in conjunction with their trading desks, for instance. "We view all of these companies as partners," said Suther, stressing the fact that the company has no stake in media outlets chosen by ad clients.
Two years ago, said Suther, Acxiom paired with Yahoo, MSN, and Google to match the portals' user data against Acxiom's own anonymized consumer data to better inform online ad targeting in the respective digital ad networks.
Such relationships are common but have created privacy concerns for years. Considering Acxiom's well-established brand in the data field, it's no surprise the firm has a regular presence on Capitol Hill; its representatives are there to ensure legislators Acxiom is protective of consumer privacy.
According to Suther, the firm scans 75,000 privacy policies - by machine and manually - that are associated with each set of data it deals with to ensure the proper notices and choices are in place.
Acxiom's corporate home page prominently addresses privacy issues, asking, "Ever wonder what we do with the data?" The landing page houses Acxiom's data and privacy resource center.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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