Targeting with Data. Q&A with Rick Erwin of Acxiom

Rick Erwin has been in the epicenter of the data driven marketplace for over 25 years including 10 years at Experian and 12 years at RR Donnelley. Now as President of Audience Solutions for Axciom, Erwin is responsible for the success of the data, analytics and digital media business globally in the Audience Solutions Division. According to Erwin, “Acxiom is an enterprise data, analytics and software-as-a-service company (referring to the cloud).”

In this interview, Erwin discusses Acxiom’s competitive market position, client base, dataset usability and changes in the data marketplace. He also looks ahead with some predictions of the media landscape five years from now.

CW: Who are your competitors and what is your point of difference? 

RE: Three things make us unique — 1) Data Stewardship: our position as a trusted manager of client, supplier and partner data who can neutrally and privately combine that data to produce better targeting and measurement results; 2) Recognition Capability: we are the only company that can anonymously, accurately and persistently recognize consumer identities in virtually any form and resolve that identity back to a common advertising currency; 3) Connectivity: we are unique in our ability to connect all forms of advertising media and platforms together, so that audiences can be moved safely and seamlessly between them. This allows any data company to distribute their audiences on any platform, any advertiser to reach their audience through any ad medium.

Our differentiation puts us in partnership and a provider role with most of the ecosystem, and so we are fortunate to not compete head-to-head very often.

CW: Who are some of your clients?

RE: Acxiom works with myriad clients across a variety of sectors including: American Express, Nielsen Catalina Solutions, TD Ameritrade, Sony, TiVo, Hearst, Macy’s, United Airlines and Epson to name a few. We have relationships with more than 50 of the Fortune 100 and business-to-consumer marketing leaders in key industries, such as financial services, retail, telecommunications, media, insurance, health care, automotive, technology, travel and entertainment.

CW: How do they (your clients) use your data?

RE: Our clients use the data in our network to accurately determine each person in their audience. This helps them spend their media budget more wisely to achieve the results they need. For some advertisers, data-driven marketing is still a very new approach, and we work with these clients to help them understand the data they have, as well as how to use it to create successful ad campaigns matched to the right audience. Our clients also use Acxiom’s data to instantly describe their audience and predict what they need to do to be relevant to them as well as to connect their audiences safely and privately through the right media channel.

CW: What are some surprises that your data reveals? 

RE: When we first apply our Abilitec recognition and our Infobase data assets to a client’s business, it often reveals that the advertiser’s assumptions about who their best customers are differs from what they thought. This is because many advertisers know their customers by the transactions they have had with them, but have an incomplete picture of who they are outside those transactions — do they have a family, what do they do for entertainment, what type of financial personality do they have, etc. Knowing these things allows us to be more relevant marketers to these consumers.

CW: Who are your competitors?

RE: It is not our practice to comment on the competition, but what I can say is that we work with other data and service providers. Our mission is to enable a neutral and open ecosystem that connects and advances the entire marketing industry delivering marketing efficiency that benefits brands and consumers alike.

CW: How has the data space changed (if at all) from when you first started?  

RE: So many things have changed while others have remained bedrock foundations. The most exciting change is that advertising media has become predominantly digital. This means that we can use technology to target and measure advertising at the household level almost everywhere. When we do this, marketing becomes much more relevant to consumers and much more effective for advertisers. And while this exciting change is happening right under our feet, the data, analytics and decisioning approaches can use the same foundational capabilities that Acxiom has brought to our clients for 45 years.

CW: How have advancements in technology helped or hurt your business model?

RE: The advancements in technology driving the Internet of Things (IoT) and Addressable TV have helped our business, and also consumers. With increasing amounts of data, marketers now have the means to get a clearer understanding of their customer. By activating an omnichannel strategy, they are able to seamlessly deliver data to a broader range of touch points, media platforms and digital marketing applications. By onboarding customer data, brands can unlock new possibilities for employing data-driven marketing strategies that increase efficiency and campaign performance, such as enhanced targeting, closed-loop measurements and one-to-one marketing attribution. And ultimately, consumers win through a more relevant experience with the brands they love. 

CW: Give me some predictions as to how you think the media landscape will look 3 to 5 years from now.

RE: We expect to see a few significant evolutions: 1) A continued trend of the marriage of data for targeting and measurement with media impression information.  2) The development of a healthy business around addressable TV advertising and 3) major advertiser expectation of accurate omni-channel campaign effectiveness measurement.

Q&A Interview with Erika Trautman, Rapt Media CEO

Erika Trautman started out in the industry by running her own Emmy Award winning production company, Outlier Films, and also worked as a documentary filmmaker. “I’ve been a writer, producer, editor, and director in the past, so I have a true appreciation and understanding of the importance of online storytelling as a way to engage and communicate. Rapt Media was created as a result of my frustration and disappointment with online video’s inability to rise to its full digital potential,” she explains. Trautman continued, “Rapt Media technology platform helps to create interactive content marketing in the video space and has the only interactive storytelling video tech combining personalized narrative with data integration.”

In this interview, she talks about how her technology works, some examples, the data collected and some predictions regarding the influence of video in the future media space.

Charlene Weisler: How exactly does Rapt Media work?

Erika Trautman: Rapt Media is a cloud-based platform built and hosted on a global content delivery network that enables video to be viewed on desktop, tablet and mobile without downloading an app.

Charlene Weisler: How do you do that without an app?

Erika Trautman: Our HTML5 video player along with our patented encoding technology allows us to serve branching videos with clickable overlays to mobile devices without using a native app. Inserting a Rapt Media video is as easy as embedding a video from YouTube or Vimeo.
Viewers are invited to click/tap content within the video that lets them create their own personalized experience based on their individual behaviors and preferences.

Charlene Weisler: Can you give an example?

Erika Trautman: Warner Bros. used Rapt Media’s interactive video technology to create an entertaining, mobile-friendly campaign to engage millennials, boost ticket sales, and grow awareness of its box office release, “Focus.” The campaign allows users to step into the shoes of a con artist, testing their skills through a series of interactive scenarios to see if they have what it takes to pull off a con. Whether attempting to con the Internet Mogul, the Investment Banker, or the Art Dealer, the campaign gives users a more personalized experience with the story.

Charlene Weisler: How much is human input and how much can be handled by Rapt to craft the creative?

Erika Trautman: Our customers typically brief, concept and map out an interactive storyboard as part of the creative process which comes before scripting and production begins. Our platform is extremely user friendly so that non-video experts can easily create interactive video.  We often provide “best practice consultation” for the interactivity and branching options being explored by the client. After the shoot and post production, the client typically owns and manages the overall “build” of the interactive video experience within our platform.

Charlene Weisler: What data do you integrate?

Erika Trautman: The Rapt Media platform easily integrates with Learning Management Systems and Marketing Automation Systems like Eloqua, Marketo, and Hubspot, as well as analytics platforms including Google Analytics, Omniture, and CoreMetrics.

Charlene Weisler: Do you capture any data regarding consumer usage? If so what do you collect?

Erika Trautman: Our custom data analytics platform helps marketers track content performance in real-time based on robust user data including unique plays, total repeat viewers, average viewing time, total nodes (content areas) viewed per session, total video plays per user, and total number of times a link-out was clicked during a viewing session. Additional demographic data including country/location, device type, operating system and browser are also provided along with consumer/viewer insights from the content areas that are driving the highest level of engagement (nodes viewed and average time viewed).

Charlene Weisler: Are you able to get GPS location?

Erika Trautman: Our API allows two-way communication between the video player and surrounding page to integrate insights based on user behavior within the video as well as geolocation data to create a personalized content experience.

Charlene Weisler: Where do you see Rapt residing in the media ecosystem? Is this something that can be used by television networks to create new content or enhance the viewer experience?

Erika Trautman: Interactive video helps entertainment and news media organizations tell complex stories in a new way to enrich the user experience. It provides in-depth coverage on editorial topics and a deeper look into storylines based on the viewer’s unique interests. It drives new readers to the site and increases time spent engaging with the content.

Charlene Weisler: How has the activity of storytelling changed in the past few years? Are there truisms that stand the test of time? Anything different today?

Erika Trautman: The foundation of effective storytelling lies in the emotional connection created with the audience, and that vital component still remains true today. What has changed, however, is the way those connections are being made through emerging content formats. Passive, linear storytelling mediums do not allow the audience to engage dynamically with the content, restricting everyone to the same experience. Interactive storytelling creates the opportunity for engagement, allowing the audience to personalize content consumption based on their individual preferences and unique interests. Marketers are also able to collect valuable insights that help them better understand which storytelling elements are resonating with the audience.

Charlene Weisler: Looking ahead into the next three to five years, what predictions can you offer on the media landscape?

Erika Trautman: The category of “Content Tech” will grow and dominate. Marketers, brands and media companies will invest in technology platforms that enable the creation, management and measurement of personalized, digital brand experiences that can be optimized through data and user insights. Emerging technology will use key audience analytics to produce better creative that engages customers, creates and tracks behavior, permits continuous creative improvement and optimization and opens the door to a new age of storytelling interactive content, or what we call “the next layer of the web” will be at the center of those technologies.

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