In A Web Of Marketing Data, The ‘Translation’ Layer Emerges

JenZMore marketing platforms are getting into middleware – acting as a translation layer between a server and applications. One example is Acxiom, which tries to position itself as a neutral connector between online and offline data sources.

Another one is Beckon, which recently raised $13 million in Series B funding led by Venrock to act as a translation layer between marketers’ many systems of record.

Co-founder and CEO Jennifer Zeszut, an enterprise and agency veteran (she sold social analytics platform Scout Labs to Lithium Technologies in 2010 and headed global marketing strategy and analytics at Razorfish agency Avenue A), said the idea for Beckon was born before the Lithium acquisition.

While selling Scout Labs’ social firehose-wrangling service to CMOs, she realized single-channel metrics were a part of the data silo problem. When CMOs pulled up campaign reports, they were evaluating social sentiment metrics far in left field apart from email, display and site analytics numbers.

Social sentiment was also an untapped companion to the TV media plan at the time (Twitter’s Amplify and Nielsen’s Twitter TV ratings didn’t exist at this time) because channel-based integration was not yet a reality.

Zeszut spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What is Beckon?

JENNIFER ZESZUT: When we set out to build this omnichannel view of all of a marketer’s data, we thought about the most common data repositories. If most people use Responsys or ExactTarget for email or Omniture or Webtrends for analytics, we could connect to those who have APIs.

But then there were homegrown systems and agencies that generate really specific sets of data – like a public relations firm who wants to create a pivot report for a company. We built out this middleware layer that no matter the format that data is structured in, we can ingest it.

What are your most common integration points?

There are thousands of different data sources, but the common points we’ve seen for (marketers) are DMP (data-management platform) tools, enterprise data warehouses. Sometimes we just see data from a DMP or CRM, but everything else might be all over the map.

Isn’t this what marketing clouds and tag managers are trying to solve?

Strategically I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. Marketing is a best-of-breed (space). We will always want and look for new shiny objects. A lot of these platforms [promise an overarching view if marketers standardize on a single platform]. We’re saying, “Forget that and come back to best of breed.” All of our clients have [different marketing applications from different vendors].

Will there be more consolidation among best-of-breed point solutions?

Social used to be exciting, but social has a place within a mix. We saw the writing on the wall with Scout. The next wave after [all the social consolidation] was data management and analytics – connect cookies and PII. But there’s also the kind of data management we’re doing: What are you spending, what’s working best across all touch points? Data and analytics are the bookends for the complex best-of-breed stuff in the middle. We want to own the data layer and the dashboard/visualization layer.

Are you doing marketing mix modeling?

We’re a little different than (a company like) MarketShare, for example. Those guys are absolutely omnichannel. In addition to factoring things like weather and stock prices, they’re optimizing for spend levels. How much should I put against TV, radio and what should my mix be?

We’re [similar in that we’re omnichannel and pipe in] online display, offline data and social. But we are a software solution, onboarding data and running real-time analytics for campaign-level reporting. We see daily optimizations of the marketing mix because we have real-time feeds with minute-by-minute granularity.

Almost everything in that giant chart of LUMAscape logos has some kind of analytics, measurement being generated. [Those systems have] tons of outputs, which [may be automatically imported] into Beckon. When we go into media companies and brands like BskyB and Coca-Cola, most of the time we see analysis done in an incredibly manual way with cuts and pastes and end-of-month summaries. Sometimes there’s a three-month lag in reporting.

What’s next? What are you using your new injection for?

With customers like Microsoft and Converse and Coca-Cola, we’re working with some amazing CMOs. We will always want to lead with the best and most beautiful product, so the platform itself gets a huge amount of investment. You will see us go global and increase sales due to the demand pulling us in to new markets.


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