True Audience Turns to Marketing Automation

True Audience, an online traffic-tracking venture formed by Real Media founder Dave Morgan, is taking on a new name and new mission, as it expands into a larger market for consumer relationship management and marketing automation applications.

Morgan quietly launched True Audience in late summer, with the goal of helping Web publishers build extensive profiles on their visitors for use in boosting ad sales. After signing high-profile clients like Weather.com and CondeNet publisher Advance Internet, he now plans to expand the venture — rechristened Tacoda Systems — to capitalize on another area that he maintains is equally underserved.

“It became clear, as we built our product and began talking to people in the marketplace, that the problem that media companies faced — in not knowing who their audience is — was really the exactly same problem that marketers faced, in not knowing who their customers are,” Morgan said. “An e-commerce site has all these undifferentiated browsers — has hundreds for each buyer — which is the same problem as a media company, which has all these different visitors, and not knowing who they are.”

As a result, the company’s technology is being broadened to assist marketers in segmenting consumers, targeting their most valuable prospects with marketing campaigns, and, in the process, reducing operating costs by automating the procedure. Initially, he said, the company’s software would tie together email, ad serving, e-commerce catalogs, content sponsorship and personalization — gleaning data from each channel to build a profile, which it then uses to target individuals via each channel.

“Each of those systems tends to know a little tiny bit, one small but usually very important bit about a user,” he said. “To them, it just a user. To the enterprise, it’s a member of a tier audience, or a prospective customer.”

The idea of such a product — that would automatically identify, segment prospects and immediately begin marketing those prospects — isn’t strictly new, however. One such firm, Annuncio, sold its assets on Friday to business software developer PeopleSoft, which says it plans to continue offering the company’s ASP solutions. Other players are also making inroads in the online marketing automation field, ranging from ad technology firm Engage to Emmperative, a startup backed by Proctor & Gamble.

Yet despite the handful of players in the space, few have managed to gain significant traction. One of the reasons is that publishers and marketers may tend to rely in systems developed in-house — which Morgan said represents his largest competition.

The news also comes amid Web ad leader DoubleClick’s decision to close its profile-based ad sales and serving unit. Still, Morgan remains optimistic for his profiling solution, seeing even DoubleClick’s exit as validation that the space “has to be attacked in a different way.”

“Their technical infrastructure made it very expensive to target … and their business model didn’t permit them to have really high-value data about users,” he said. “They only had very low-level data, their biz model didn’t have a direct relationship with the consumer. They couldn’t get much premium, and because of their relationship with their partners, the partners owned the data and they didn’t.”

“There have been a lot of point solutions to problems, good analysis packages and good automation packages in the marketplace,” Morgan added. “But no one is putting the two together. What that means is it’s very difficult for companies to get value out of either.”

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