Pay Attention To ‘Traditional’ Data Managers

joannaoconnelrevised“Marketer’s Note” is a weekly column informing marketers about the rapidly evolving, digital marketing technology ecosystem. It is written by Joanna O’Connell, Director of Research, AdExchanger Research.  

When Acxiom announced the release of its Audience Operating System (AOS) in late September, I expected it to make a bigger splash.  Likewise when Experian acquired digital data security company 41st Parameter (home of Adtruth, a cross platform targeting and tracking solution). But neither seemed to capture the digital marketing world’s collective attention, which I think is an oversight. Here are a few reasons marketers would do well to pay attention:

  • They are giants in the world of traditional audience data management. Here’s the reality: Acxiom and Experian (like Epsilon and Merkle, who I’ve also got my eye on) own relationships with Fortune 500 companies, some of which have been in place for dozens of years. They are well embedded into those organizations, known and trusted by people in a range of roles, from CRM to analytics. They are, in fact, the backbone of customer segmentation for some of the biggest companies in the world – managing first party data, enriching it with third party data, building and maintaining customer models. Sound familiar?
  • They are comfortable in the realm of relationship management. The segmentation built and managed by traditional marketing service providers like Acxiom and Experian has been used in myriad ways by its clients for years and years, notably for both acquisition (think direct mail) and retention (think email) efforts. Stepping into the role of consumer lifecycle management platform, where organizations use them to migrate individual users through the purchase lifecycle, feels like a natural next step.
  • They are moving past the cookie for cross platform targeting and measurement.  If I heard nothing else listening to the marketing leaders in Phoenix, I heard loud and clear that every industry-leading CMO believes successful marketing now requires personalized, relevant, authentic experiences wherever users are.  This necessitates accurate and persistent identification of consumers within and across devices, something that Acxiom’s web of interconnected relationships with giants like Facebook and Yahoo! – who sit on direct connections with actual human beings – and likewise something that Experian’s ownership of Adtruth for cross-platform linking, explicitly facilitates.  The whole industry finally seems to be resigning itself to the reality that this is something the 3rd party cookie just isn’t equipped to handle.

Time will tell how the story evolves. I realize I am painting a picture with very broad strokes, and that there are many unknowns and unanswered questions – how the current crop of data management platforms (DMPs) push, successfully or not, past the boundaries thrown up by a reliance on cookies; how well companies like Acxiom can actually execute against the big promises they are making; how nimble traditional companies like these can really be in a digital-first world (and that’s a BIG one) – to name just a few. But I, for one, am watching them very, very closely.

As always, I welcome your thoughts!

Follow Joanna O’Connell (@joannaoconnell ) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter. 

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  1. Marc Rossen

    Great thoughts Joanne. I think there is general agreement on all the points your raised however believe your point “…how nimble traditional companies like these can really be in a digital-first world” is too often over looked.

    For example, handling high velocity data from a DSP and sending back out recommendations for execution takes a special skill set to understand not only the technical details but also the nuances of cookie/user level analytic’s and strategic opportunities.

    Traditional segmentation, as you know, is vastly different (in strategic use cases) in a DSP/programmatic world and different thinking is needed to realize the potential, IMHO.


  2. All this new hype about “Big Data” is like back to the future. Anybody who did marketing data warehousing back in the mid-90’s will agree with me. Back then I worked for Andy Frawley at a boutique marketing software and consulting company presciently called Exchange Applications. For each client, we were building huge proprietary marketing databases sourced from dozens of offline and online sources. It was crazy stuff and ahead of its time. The databases, hardware, and software of the day could barely handle it, but clients loved it. Now it seems that the digital world is re-discovering all this stuff from 20 years ago. People like Andy, who is now president at Epsilon, have a huge advantage because of all that prior experience. While perhaps more nimble, the noobs will make a lot of mistakes and bad decisions that experience will avoid. My money is on the “traditional” data managers winning and owning this data management space.

  3. Paul Cimino

    Great article @joannaoconnell. Proof of what you’re reporting is Brilig, a co-op data exchange and analytics platform built between the offline and online worlds. Our startup bet was that offline data/segments/analytics were going to be bedrock of the future omni-channel marketing landscape. It turned out to be beyond true. Merkle is using Brilig to connect data flow and segmentation across, mail, email, display (all 3 screens), search and social within a solution set called ConnectedCRM. Clients are flocking and results are amazing.

    Joe Psych is right, but the 90s was still silo’d and channel drive, like Gemini program of data, compared to the current Apollo muiltichannel, Big Data moon shot we are witnessing.

    Omni-channel is a green field of tech development and ROI.