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.

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