A Wave of DMP Acquisitions Might Be Coming

DMPsAs marketers and advertisers struggle to access the right data to deliver customer experiences that are timely, relevant, and engaging, a growing number are turning to data management platforms (DMPs) for help. While the specific features vary, a DMP essentially collects data from first- and third-party data sources, and organizes and distributes the information to various marketing, customer service, or advertising platforms. It’s a technology that makes vendors who develop it attractive targets for acquisition.

DMPs have matured significantly in recent years,  noted former Forrester Research principal analyst Joanna O’Connell in a recent report (O’Connell is currently AdExchanger’s Director of Research).

“Little more than third-party audience targeting platforms two years ago, today’s leading DMPs are ingesting a wide range of owned and licensed data streams for insights and segmentation and are pushing data into a growing number of external targeting platforms, helping marketers deliver more relevant and consistent marketing communications,” O’Connell wrote.

The maturation of DMP technology makes it an attractive acquisition for vendors and agencies looking to expand their client offerings; one need only look at IT technology company Neustar’s $119 million purchase of DMP provider Aggregate Knowledge in October.

A few weeks later, Omnicom standardized its data management capabilities on Aggregate Knowledge technology, further underscoring confidence in DMPs. And industry rumblings anticipate that Centro, a tech firm that offers media buying and selling services, might also acquire a DMP.

Darren Herman, chief digital media officer of media agency The Media Kitchen and president of investment shop kbs+ Ventures, anticipates more agencies and marketing tech firms adding DMP capabilities to their current stacks. Despite the technology’s growing popularity, he doesn’t envision a standalone DMP industry.

Phil Geyskens, EVP of analytics & development at agency Starcom USA, agreed with this sentiment, also predicting a spree of acquisition activity around the DMP technology.

“Given the value of data,” Geysens said, “you’re going to see a significant amount of players starting to think about buying DMPs and they’re going to come from different angles.”

He added that companies as varied as enterprise technology firms and business consultancies have showed “a strong interest” in providing agency services–something that a DMP can help accommodate. “It’s still early in the marketplace, but one way that these guys could get a leg up  is to buy a DMP and or a DSP,” he said.

Despite the potential of DMPs, there are still several gaps in the technology. As O’Connell pointed out in her report, DMPs do not necessarily deliver mobile tracking and targeting; many have yet to integrate with traditional campaign management and marketing automation systems, and offline integrations are “not yet a high priority” for DMPs.

“DMPs must create deeper offline integrations for both data ingestion and audience syndication,” O’Connell wrote, adding that vendors have shown early signs of doing so, but “certainly not uniformly and not in as much depth as we’d like.” Consequently, data solutions providers Acxiom has touted its DMP-like offering (called Audience Operating System) with the promise of linking offline and online data sources.

As O’Connell noted however, vendors are generally still in the early stages of providing full omni-channel connections, which limits the value of current DMP implementations. Media Kitchen’s Herman pointed out that DMPs are “essentially segmented data repositories…they are nice businesses but they in themselves don’t ultimately deliver us a ton of value.”

Despite a possible flurry of DMP acquisition activity, companies that want to install them to improve marketing or advertising practices should still be careful. Because the technology’s capabilities are still being defined, companies that don’t know how to properly imlement a DMP should avoid quick deployments, Geysens said. Geyskens pointed to the initial excitement surrounding early CRM solutions such as Siebel Systems as a warning.

“I was raised in the world of CRM applications  and I have vivid memories of the promise of Siebel Systems for aggregating all your data into one location so that you could generate lists from it and send emails to the right target and other things,” Geyskens said. Early sailing was rough and Geyskens worries the current fervor around DMPs mirrors the early fervor around CRM.

“Something is happening that I saw in the past, and that’s an over-reliance on the technology without understanding the use of it and the value it can generate for you,” he said. “This should be about more than just buying technology, so think before you start.”

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