Equifax Sees OTT Video As The Next Frontier For Marketing Services

DDataEquifax’s marketing services business has flown under the radar.

The company manages a consumer credit database on some 600 million individuals and 80 million businesses and, unbeknownst to many, has a dedicated marketing services practice that competes with Experian Marketing Services.

Called IXI Services, this division of Equifax helps financial services companies and other consumer marketing companies target households that meet their wealth, income, spending and credit criteria.

Equifax also has a number of marketing effectiveness solutions that span the whole of its business, though individual lines of business are more pronounced by vertical, such as financial services and communications.

Through its data integration and deterministic matching service, Connexus, it is able to assign unique, persistent identifiers around household or individual addresses. This way, it can match Equifax “keys” and public demographic information with clients’ databases without exposing personally identifiable information.

A separate, but growing area of business for Equifax – it currently represents less than 10% of its total revenue – is its communications vertical, which large telcos like Verizon, Sprint and AT&T tap to expand their subscriber lists.

Many wish to acquire prospects who are predisposed to buy certain bundles of communications packages.

“Being able to identify the individual is something we bring to bear for the top four wireless … providers,” said Mike Gandolfo, VP of marketing strategy for the communications vertical at Equifax. “We key these users to understand who the individuals are with very high integrity and can marry the data sets in a centralized, safe haven without using any PII.”

But Gandolfo said there’s untapped opportunity for marketing data exchanges as telcos carve out niches for new revenue generation – fueled by the growth of over-the-top video and subscription services. 

“Many operators are looking for new ventures and the way you do that is by moving up the value chain and selling application services,” he said. “Since video represents about 60% of network consumption, you’re seeing the big operators say, ‘let’s try to make the most of monetization of over-the-top video.’”

With both Verizon and Comcast grooming new video-streaming services, the addressable opportunity hinges on these providers’ ability to effectively monetize media assets in addition to bolstering their subscriber lists.

Still, advertisers want to know they can reach their audience within prescribed time frames, which can prove challenging when the audience for a single show is now dispersed across a multitude day parts and devices, noted Jim Nail, principal analyst at Forrester.

“As these telcos go after OTT offerings, they now have some control and ability to monetize the media assets and ad slots on top of those lists,” Gandolfo said. “Most of the traditional TV ads were content-based and required understanding what percentage of audience you’d get with a show, but [OTT] opens up more opportunity for addressable, deterministic data from communications providers.”

Gandolfo described how a large financial services institution keyed all of its customers through Equifax. Because of its partnerships with telecom providers, the financial services provider wanted to reach customers who overlapped with its telco partners.

The telco and the financial services company input their respective customer identifiers into Equifax’s platform. Using lifestyle and demographic information, Equifax identified which of those identifiers were joint customers and, within that segment, which joint customers fell within the financial services company’s target audience.

These matches determined campaign nuances like the ad creative shown when a telco customer browsed the financial service company’s site, said Gandolfo.

“We saw 25% lift in conversions,” he added.

Equifax and Experian Marketing Services aren’t the only ones doing this. Acxiom offers similar services, where it anonymizes personally identifiable information through a hashed ID, allowing agencies like Starcom to match target audiences and segments through their database against anonymized set-top box viewing data from other Acxiom Safe Haven partners.

The ultimate goal is to determine the right combination, cadence and sequence of messaging to deliver for audiences.

In Acxiom’s case, it can anonymously aggregate north of 100 million individuals across cable and satellite operators like DirecTV and Dish, then match that against advertisers’ databases for added targeting intelligence.

Although it remains to be seen if telcos and cable operators avail their trove of subscriber data for emerging OTT services, given major video services like Netflix’s resistance to simple third-party measurement, Gandolfo said companies like his can achieve the most success if there is evolution and change management at the carrier level.

“Operators do see it as advantageous to serve their own personal interests, but they see it as something they can monetize externally as well,” he said. “What we’re dealing with is tried and true revenue streams, where you don’t want to take away from the mechanisms that support those current revenue streams by trying new innovations. It won’t be an overnight process.”

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