Acxiom Makes A Living Marketing Decades of Data

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Nov. 7, 2011 12:00 am  

Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock has data on 98 percent of the U.S. population.

"Some of the biggest spending in advertising has been in television ads, where they have some inkling of who they're reaching," Danziger said. "Like if there was an ad on 'Jersey Shore,' we know there's a common demographic watching that show. But some other, broader-based shows are more challenging. That's where Acxiom comes into play."

Selling 'Characteristics'
Acxiom typically sells what Danziger calls "characteristics."

"We maintain for clients large databases of consumers," he said. "Part of what we can provide to them are characteristics, where we have, over time, compiled a substantial information base, providing characteristics from individuals and households."

By "over time," Danziger means that two decades of constant data collection and refining, all stored in Acxiom's data centers across the country. The characteristics themselves fall into a variety of categories.

"The most basic example, and one I always think about as a basis, sounds almost anachronistic: the White Pages or Yellow Pages directories. There's a solid combination of names, addresses and phone numbers, all associated with each other, providing a good, solid baseline of information to work from," Danziger said.

But Acxiom's data go far beyond public records that have already been compiled.

"You also layer in from a public standpoint who owns a house and who does not," Danziger said. "Then the character of that property often tags along with that, and property records. Then there's the whole range of private sources that are self-reported: surveys, warranty cards, presence of children, age ranges, things like approximate income."

Danziger said Acxiom was contractually restricted from describing what else, exactly, those private sources entail, and where they come from. If it becomes common knowledge, he said, competing data companies could notice and profit.

Curiously, Danziger said social media, which seems like it should be the answer to a personal-data-collectors' fevered prayers, "has not played a major role in Acxiom's approaches to data at this stage."

But there are, he said, marketing services providers that are "doing many new and interesting things in the realm of 'social listening,'" where companies learn what people are saying about them through social media outlets.

"More and more, clients are interested in figuring out more about what people are influential on social media, what people do on various social networks and how that information can be translated into useful marketing activities and conversation," Danziger said.

Acxiom uses its collected characteristics to calculate buying behaviors and marketing information. Both the data and its management are Acxiom products. Keeping track of characteristics can get hugely complex with larger companies.



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