Experian Marketing Services GM Balducci On Digital Ad Strategy And Audience IQ Platform Powered By Turn

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ExperianAt this week's ad:tech trade show and conference, Experian Marketing Services announced that media buying platform Turn will help power display ad buying for Experian's AudienceIQ platform. According to the release, "Audience IQ enables advertisers to potentially access offline direct marketing data from almost every U.S. household" which can be used to address audiences online. Read more.

Mike Balducci, SVP and General Manager, Digital Advertising Services at Experian Marketing Services, discussed his company's strategy and the Audience IQ platform.

AdExchanger.com: First, please talk about what the Digital Advertising Services business does?

MB: Our Digital Advertising Services business brings the capabilities we have in our offline direct‑marketing business together with the capabilities that we have in our online interactive businesses. The group was created in part because we have challenges as an online marketer in terms of getting more yield out of our ad spend. Experian Marketing Services has all these great offline data and analytics assets, and we wanted to leverage those capabilities that we have offline for our online media spend. We actually sit in between our marketing services business and our interactive business for the sole purpose of gluing those capabilities together.

We look at it as getting yield out of our funnel - at the bottom.  With LowerMyBills we are probably the best in the industry at optimizing forms, for example.

On the credit‑monitoring side, we're really good at finding those unique media assets that work for our performance goals.

So, where we're going is, we want to be able to bring those same capabilities that we've enabled for our own properties to our clients. We have more than 3,000 clients on the marketing services side.

Where does display advertising fit in all of this? Is it about direct‑response or brand awareness, for example?

It's actually both.

For example, when you look at our interactive properties, some of those are brands such as FreeCreditScore.com and CreditReport.com look for different ways to measure the performance of display advertising through branded offers. Other Experian brands on the interactive marketing side, like LowerMyBills, are using direct‑response, performance‑based, cost‑per‑click/cost‑per‑lead metrics.

Where do agencies fit in here?

We look at agencies as customer opportunities. Certainly they control large media budgets, and we have what we believe is a unique capability in terms of bringing audience data at scale, consistent‑quality audience data at scale, to power better decisions on display advertising.

Can you see the services your interactive group provides replacing the agency?

That's certainly not our goal. We can certainly act in that capacity if our clients want us to. But, so far we've just worked directly with our agency partners.  We're not looking specifically to displace an agency in the relationship. We're actually targeting them as client opportunities due to the clear ways in which we can leverage our strengths for advertisers.

Any trends that you are seeing on the client or customer side?

We're obviously concentrated in financial services just because of our brand and our client base, but also talking to direct marketers, retailers along with the automotive and television industry. What we're hearing is the risk, the data decision, and the information management folks are realizing that typically they're powering offline marketing decisions where there is a static delivery cost and a static creative platform. Now they're getting involved in taking those same data and analytics and trying to push that through a media transaction where static creative doesn't exist. Static delivery cost doesn't exist. You have to find your audiences online.

These different departments are starting to come together. You definitely see friction within that, because  with the digital media decision makers, there's an agency typically involved on the online side. Offline there's not typically an agency involved.

We're having meetings with all those people in the room, and they're getting it. But it's going to take time for those organizations to evolve to really start capitalizing on these opportunities in a more frictionless manner.

What are the success metrics that your group is driving on? Do you need to move earnings per share (EPS), for example?

Yes. But to be clear, Experian is a public company. We're traded on the stock exchange, so we typically don't divulge financial metrics. We have goals around creating reach and scale in terms of our data and online media. The biggest goal is educating the industry that we are a single-source provider of addressable advertising, so we know how to buy media, and we understand the value of data driven targeting in optimizing the performance of ad campaigns.

What are some goals you have for the Turn platform which helps power Audience IQ??

Every goal that we've set out for Turn so far they've met, every milestone. We've actually been working on this for six months. We have a program I think that goes out at least 12 months in terms of what custom development is needed on the platform to support our needs. I would say our goals are specifically to continue to meet those milestones and reach ultimately this perfect platform that we think the Turn team can deliver.

What would you say is the biggest challenge in all the platform business you're getting into?

It's funny, because when we talk to clients and we talk to them about the capabilities of the platform, they almost don't believe you, like, "Really? You can do all of this? You can really bring all these offline data assets to bear in media transactions in virtually any media from any media source?" Some of the initial challenges on the client side is we actually had to just bring them in and do a hands‑on demonstration.

How is Experian addressing the search and display advertising convergence?

We're certainly bringing together search data that we collect in terms of click‑through into the display program. The Audience IQ platform connects all those different sources of data together with an “easy button.” But, we are not buying search through Turn's platform. We have a separate platform for that.

We have a multi‑touch attribution program that launched a couple months ago that we're deploying for our Experian consumer division, which manages the credit businesses, since they do television and search. They also do email, display and fixed, custom placements. We're pushing the tracking of those transactions and the collection of the data associated with that into the platform so we can do the attribution measurement.

With the Turn audience platform we're able to track and measure and action off of that data in terms of whether it's a re‑targeting transaction or a cross‑sell or an up‑sell or a retention program.

With Experian Marketing Services, how would you say it breaks out in terms of percentage of spend attributed to digital advertising tactics such as email, display, search, video, etc.?

It’s different for our owned and operated sites versus for marketing services.

On the marketing services side we own CheetahMail, which you may be aware of. That's the largest email campaign management platform, so we do a lot of email for our clients. Audience IQ brings us into their display activities. Again, this is a new capability that we haven't had in the past.

There are lots of touch points that we have with customers along this full spectrum of direct marketing where we can now extend those touch points into the display landscape.

How about quantifying what Turn is going to do here? Again, it's 50% of what you plan to do in the display space.

I will say this... it's a number‑one priority in terms of marketing objectives to scale our display advertising and aligns with that objective in terms of we've got to extract better yield for own properties and our clients.

Follow Experian Marketing (@experianmkt) and AdExchanger.com (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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