Spring '13 AGency

May 5-8, 2013 | Austin, Texas

Q&A with Tim Suther

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Acxiom's chief marketing and strategy officer discusses the increased importance of data for today's marketers and the new innovations that are driving the future.

Tim Suther is Acxiom's chief marketing and strategy officer. He joined Acxiom in 2005 and is responsible for the company's global marketing, strategy, and business development activities. Previously, he led the company's worldwide digital, agency, and multichannel marketing services business. He has more than 30 years of experience at the intersection of data, marketing, and technology.

I had a chance to sit down with Suther, half of the "math man vs. mad man" keynote hot seat at the iMedia Agency Summit, and ask him a few questions about the increased importance of data for today's marketers in a digital world and the new innovations in Acxiom's offerings.

What would you say are the primary ways media buyers and other marketers are leveraging Acxiom data?
More than $500 billion in advertising is spent globally, most of it mistimed, misplaced, and mis-messaged. Today, nearly 40 percent of advertising dollars are wasted, up from 37 percent five years ago. So, the problem is actually getting worse, not better.

The source of the problem is largely found in the "disconnects of marketing:" online disconnected from offline, advertisers' data disconnected from publishers', awareness campaigns disconnected from performance marketing, and marketing disconnected from customer experience. Worse yet, untold amounts of consumers' time and mental energy are also wasted in the process. Everyone loses when marketing is disconnected.

Globally, Acxiom creates and uses data and analytics to strengthen connections between people, businesses, and their partners. Better connections enable marketing that is more effective, drives greater customer value, and improves margins. We help our clients:

  • Connect and analyze online, offline, customer, and partner data to help organizations better know their customers.
  • Connect and customize customer experiences -- across channels and partners, and over time -- to help organizations better engage.
  • Connect partners via a safe haven and create software to help organizations optimize customer value.

How do you intend to affect this change at the onset?
Better connections are fueled by better data. No single source of data provides all the answers but instead depends on a robust fusion of digital and traditional, behavioral and inferred, structured and unstructured, first-party data and third.

Increasingly, consumers expect connected interactions -- seamless and personalized experiences across the channels they choose. They want to be treated with the respect of familiarity and preference. It's a whole new way of doing business, and it has the power to change everything.

While other providers solve for individual media or channels, our focus is completely different. It's all about helping solve for customer value -- regardless of channel, media, or predisposition. Our goal is to leverage our client's data, a vast network of partner data, and the best possible external data to help marketers drive better ROI, publishers better yield, agencies better value, and most importantly, more meaningful and resonating experiences for people.

How does this play out with regard to privacy?
Acxiom is the original big data company. We know data and its intricacies. We have decades of experience and insights in practically every industry involving almost every imaginable use of data. Call it wisdom you can trust. And speaking of trust, we've been a pioneer in privacy throughout our history. Acxiom created the first chief privacy officer position in 1991, whose sole purpose ever since has been working with state and local governments to craft policies and industry standards that protect consumer data and ensure its responsible use.

Today, we review between 50,000 and 70,000 privacy policies a year. Many of the industry's "privacy by design" principles were conceived by Acxiom. Acxiom is regularly consulted by policy makers around the world on privacy best practices.

Does Acxiom connect offline and offline data?
We power 54 trillion transactions per year and 15,000 databases for 7,000 clients around the world. These transactions unify all kinds of data sets, connect the online to the offline world, facilitate sharing between trusted business partners in ways that protect consumers, and form seamless bridges between traditional channels and media and constantly evolving new ones -- all with the goal of helping our clients delight their customers and exceed their expectations.

How about your recent announcements with Facebook? And your recent Abilitag and Audience Propensities announcements? What can you tell us about these?
More than a year ago, we announced a major investment in new products. We hired Phil Mui, the godfather of Google Analytics, and more than 150 engineers to help him. They've all been busy.

In late February, we announced Abilitag, which helps publishers better understand and monetize their traffic. Publishers know a lot about visitors, but very little about people. Abilitag solves that problem. Additionally, Abilitag makes it easier for a publisher to use an advertiser's data to select an audience and measure performance. That enables a much tighter, higher performing relationship between advertiser and publisher. As an advertiser, I'd want all my publishing partners to have Abilitag on their site so I could use my own data to target and measure performance.

A few weeks ago, we announced our relationship with Facebook where Custom Audiences and Syndicated Audiences can be powered by Acxiom data or our clients' data. An advertiser can now leverage the power of their own data, with the social graph, to drive higher performing Facebook experiences. That's revolutionary.

We've been working hard to build out the number of publishers that can accept an Acxiom client's data. That list now includes four of the six largest digital publishers, three of the largest mobile advertising networks, and three addressable TV networks. No one can offer more reach to an advertiser's proprietary data than Acxiom.

Finally, two weeks ago we announced Audience Propensities, a portfolio of over 3,000 statistically validated propensities for 13 industries, that enable marketers to more scientifically select media and more efficiently reach their intended audience. Most big data solutions have focused on "what was"...we wanted to answer "what's likely to happen." Mined from a broad cross-section of data, Audience Propensities offers rich insight into potential spending, in-market timing, brand affinity, media consumption and shopping behavior -- all tuned to specific vertical markets. While other big data analytics focus on what was, Audience Propensities focuses on what is likely to be. The result is more effective marketing, higher profitability, and a superior customer experience.

Tie all this together for me.
Like never before, data has the potential to create more satisfaction for consumers, healthier bottom lines for companies, and a better world all around. Acxiom is committed to serving progressive organizations that realize that there has never been more opportunity to connect more deeply with their customers than right now, and in the process drive results like never before.

Acxiom is passionately focused on making a better world through the responsible use of data. We believe that by creating intelligent connections between data of all kinds -- online and offline, publisher and advertiser, branding and performance campaigns, and marketing and customer experience -- there is opportunity to create better life experiences for people and better marketing for the companies who serve them.

Katharine Panessidi is content director for iMedia Communications.