Acxiom, the data giant with over 133 Million households worth of data on American’s lifestyle and buying habits, announced on Wed. that it has a new product – Relevance-X. The Relevance-X offering should allow online publishers to make more from even the most fragmented sections of the population.
Essentially what this new approach is doing is placing cookies on users sites who click on ads that Acxiom partners with. Once a user clicks on an ad, the Acxiom offline database is accessed and their “cluster, gender and zip are set in the cookie. When the user returns to another Acxiom partnered site, the cookie is read and the appropriate ad for the zip, gender and cluster is displayed. In effect, doing the same thing that direct marketers have done for years with catalogs and direct mail. Only now the same offline data that is used to determine whether or not I get a Brookstone catalog or a Warshawsky catalog (neither of which I have ever bought from) is being used online. Essentially taking the legwork out of going to the mailbox and retrieving my junk mail, now it is being served on the web page I am visiting.
Axciom isn’t the only one jumping into the game. Q Interactive has teamed with Alliant Data to offer the same functionality. Q Interactive’s list of sites includes, About.com, Weather.com, iVillage and CoolSavings.com to name a few, all collect data from users online. In fact, Q Interactive is the web’s largest lead generation-focused advertising network in the industry.\
Privacy concerns are an issue. Chief Marketing and Strategy Office for Acxiom, Rich Howe put it well, “…most consumers likely do not know who is using the data. The majority of individuals do not know a lot about it”. Just like Direct Marketing. You don’t know what you are going to get when you open your mailbox, but someone paid to put it there. The same is now going to be true of your online surfing experience.
Of course, I have to point out the obvious, that the impending $3.1B sale of Doubleclick to Google (pending regulators approval) will most likely usher in a major shift in search advertising as the “cluster” mentality sets in. So not only will display and video ads be targeted with the help of hybrid online/offline data, text ads will also benefit as well. I expect that by user, different AdWords ads will be displayed depending on the “cluster” you are associated with.
You’ll also see AOL’s Advertising.com (which just purchased Tacoda) and Microsoft (who bought Aquantive) get into the game. And what a game it is going to be. eMarketer estimates that this year advertisers will spend $575M on behaviorally targeted ads, and that by 2011, nearly $B will be spent annualy, an 8X increase in just 4 years. Expect to see offline data companies either getting swallowed up by some of these companies or at the very least strategically partnering to be able to get a foothold in the game.
My own company, Consumer Base LLC is a leader in behavioral data and maintains a database of over 70 Million households. Partnering with a platform provider to take advantage of the phenomenal growth is certainly an option that will be weighed heavily over the next several months. As the space for behaviorally targeted web advertisements grows it will be interesting to see which companies are able to best manage the privacy issues with the ability to deliver higher and higher ROI for the advertisers that take advantage of this avenue
I think there is actually a fun game we can play. I will ask my good friend and resident reverse link engineering guru, Brandon Shalton of T3Report.com, to see if he can find what the Acxiom cookie looks like on your computer and where you can get one (which sites you need to visit). Then I would like to crack how to find out which “cluster” I am in. Maybe I can move up from being in the After Boomers to become a Turbo Boomer.