The Companies Challenging LiveRamp’s Supremacy In Data Onboarding

LiveRamp pioneered data onboarding, the technology to match anonymized online user cookies and mobile IDs to real-world consumers and offline data. But now, LiveRamp must contend with rivals following the trail it blazed.

LiveRamp executed a neat financial pirouette last year, when it re-listed on the stock exchange with a market cap of more than $3 billion, higher than Acxiom previously traded at, despite LiveRamp accounting for only one-sixth of Acxiom’s revenue.

But that move also opened investors’ eyes to the potential growth in data onboarding.

Second-generation onboarders, ad tech startups pivoting to onboarding and established data companies are all converging on LiveRamp’s business.

AdExchanger took a look at some of the contenders that have stepped up to challenge LiveRamp, and the particular strategies they see for winning business away from the onboarding champ.

LiveIntent enters by the inbox

LiveIntent only launched a data onboarding product in March, but it was a natural next step to monetize the company’s email database.

LiveIntent works with publishers on in-email advertising and newsletter monetization. And CFO Gary Deutsch said there’s an opportunity to help data-driven media companies like CBS, Hearst or News Corp. use their own proprietary IDs for ad campaigns, instead of relying on LiveRamp’s IdentityLink.

And a scaled, active email archive will become more important as mobile browsers diminish cookie data, Deutsch said.

LiveIntent is experimenting with pricing models, like charging based on data value, performance metrics or for à la carte services, to gain adoption with companies that aren’t already long-term clients, he said.

LiveIntent also stopped selling email and audience data to LiveRamp, since it officially entered the onboarding category.

Neustar banks on durable data points

Neustar was founded in 1998 as a directory for telephone area codes and home call-routing systems, a business it exited in 2015 before shifting into mar tech.

More recently, Neustar has become one of the larger data onboarding players. And Neustar benefits from the legacy offline data set, which has personally identifiable information like names and home addresses that it can match to emails, cookies and mobile IDs, said Michael Schoen, SVP and GM of marketing solutions.

Neustar and others have been “frustrated” by the lack of awareness of LiveRamp alternatives, Schoen said. But there’s weariness too, he said, from marketers who want more transparency into data sources or into audience match rates, than LiveRamp provides.

Companies using LiveRamp’s IdentityLink ID, for instance, may not know which data point – like household address, a mobile device number, an email, a cookie, etc. – generated a match, only the overall matches in a segment, he said.

LiveRamp, with its ubiquitous partnerships across the web, wants high total match rates to be the name of the game in data onboarding, since it sees the most digital users. But if Neustar can use its offline data set to make more household level connections, then it stands to gain if brands focus on more durable data points, like home addresses, instead of digital IDs.

Signal has a need for speed

Signal started 10 years ago as a tag management company, but has repositioned itself as a data onboarding and identity resolution company.

The market needs onboarding and identity alternatives, said Signal COO Jay Stocki. “We’re doing our best to scream to the world that there are other players and, critically, ways to do onboarding much faster,” he said.

And Signal’s roots in tag site management are still important. LiveRamp is an “extract, transform and load” tool, piping large data sets between different sources in daily or weekly batches. As a former tag management service, Signal is used to operating in real-time, Stocki said.

If, for example, a brand is promoting a deal that expires in two weeks, those marketers need a service built specifically for operating real-time data pipes.

Can a newbie Throtle up?

Throtle was founded explicitly to exploit LiveRamp’s vulnerabilities, like the lack of visibility into third-party data sources and more flexible payment models.

As a second-generation onboarder, Throtle tends to white label its tech to agencies or other identity companies, because it needs the revenue and doesn’t own exclusive data sets.

But onboarding startups like Throtle also need to hone in on specific differentiators, because LiveRamp’s “Goliath mentality” creates chances for smaller companies to grow, said Throtle founder and CEO Paul Chachko.

Throtle, for instance, is focused on adding healthcare brands, which Chachko said are more comfortable using first-party data now and value accuracy over scale for identity products. There are also healthcare data risks that discourage some tech companies from entering the vertical. For Throtle, that’s part of the attraction.

Throtle also has a more flexible pricing model than LiveRamp and other incumbents, Chachko said.

It offers an annualized flat rate based on data usage, he said. Brands prefer to pay a single yearly price, because that means if the marketers wring more profitability from the platform, the vendor doesn’t earn more too as a performance margin or percent of overall data spend.

TransUnion converts from consumer credit

TransUnion, 50-year-old consumer credit bureau, isn’t a household name in marketing technology, but its evolution into data onboarding and identity services could change that.

TransUnion has roots in consumer tracking for individuals to monitor their credit scores and for businesses that issue credit to appraise applicants, like insurance companies, mortgage financiers or real estate landlords. That archive of offline consumer activity is the foundation for TransUnion’s data onboarding service.

TransUnion hired ad tech vet Matt Spiegel a year ago to stand up its new media vertical.

The credit agency, which Spiegel said now bills itself as “information services,” has also been on a tech investment spree, with a particular eye on data onboarding. TransUnion is an investor in Throtle, for instance, and in May it acquired the audience modeling startup TruSignal. The company also led a funding round in the OTT ad tech startup Tru Optik this year.

“Our advantage right now is we’re not historically a marketing business,” Spiegel said. “So our focus is how to invest time and energy on new strategies and distribution points that the market will need in the next 12-24 months.”

Zeotap provides an exclusive, European look

The onboarding startup Zeotap has gained traction based on a few key differentiators.

It has exclusive data licensing deals with 10 telcos and 70 other ecommerce or publishing partners. Most onboarding companies license data from the same third-party providers, so exclusive data is a strong selling point, said Oliver Kanders, Zeotap’s chief client officer.

And he said telcos own the “gateway” where browser cookies or advertising IDs can be deterministically matched to longer-lasting profile data like emails or phone numbers.

The Berlin-based Zeotap also has an international head start on LiveRamp. Zeotap operates internationally, but its core European telco partners collect GDPR-based consent data, Kanders said. LiveRamp must rethink its approach in global markets, where there isn’t an easy abundance of third-party consumer data, and particularly in Europe because LiveRamp’s open data marketplace must be audited for consent.

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1 Comment

  1. This is all very interesting, but at the end of the day, all of these guys still rely on a cookie ID, for the most part and some, I believe (not certain cause everyone is so vague) still leverage LiveRamp as their onboarder (just touting different data)…The real value in challenging LiveRamp is building a solution that puts the 1st party data back in the Advertisers hands and doesn’t require the need to pipe through a non-transparent solution that takes upwards of 10 days or more to get you your data back (often with mass duplication).