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Acxiom Aims to Break “Data Monopoly” With New System

By Oct 01, 2013

Last Tuesday, data broker Acxiom introduced its Audience Operating System (AOS), which is being framed as a home where previously disparate consumer data can reside and empower marketers. “Essentially, it is our commitment to an open-data world,” said president and CEO Scott Howe at an Advertising Week session in New York.

Free Trade for Data

Howe said the concept of free trade applies to the world of marketing data – namely, that every stakeholder is better off without silos. “There is no monopoly on data.” Without free trade in the realm of data, best decisions cannot be made, he added.

“We absolutely have to create an ecosystem where first parties, third parties, online and offline, contextual, social, demographic, psychographic – all that information needs to come to live in one place, so that marketers can cook it and figure out what it actually means,” Howe said.

AOS is being offered as such a unifying ecosystem for marketers, who will ideally be able to get a more comprehensive, distinct view of the consumer.

The Layers and the Goal

There are three layers to AOS:

-       Data: APIs will absorb the various types of data mentioned above, in addition to Acxiom’s own consumer data.

-       Operations: This layer will help marketers ingest the data and figure out what it all means.

-       Applications: Partners are encouraged to create AOS-linked apps, which can be tailored to meet specific needs.

By unveiling AOS, Howe said he believes Acxiom is offering a platform that can empowers the entire industry to make better decisions. In other words, marketers will have “the power to harness all the data at once, figure out what it means and do something with it.”

Howe emphasized what he sees as the importance of AOS (which is open to advertisers, agencies, publishers and software application developers): “We think it’s as game-changing as the railroads were for commerce, the telephone was for communications or the PC was for business efficiency. We think it’s a cool deal.”

The Bigger Picture

The announcement of AOS comes a few weeks after Acxiom rolled out AboutTheData.com, offering consumers a glimpse at the data the company has collected about them. The consumer-facing portal also enables consumers to make correct their on-file personal information or opt out of having their data collected and stored by Acxiom. Howe said up until AboutTheData.com was unveiled, Acxiom had a “closed cloak” for too long.

“I don’t want to preach or anything, but I just think as an industry we’ve ignored our customers for too long,” Howe said. It’s “lamentable” that in a hyper-connected, mobile, data-collection-heavy world, consumers don’t have a voice in the matter, he added.

Howe noted that the response to the portal has been affirming: hundreds of thousands of visitors, an opt-out rate of less than 2 percent and mostly positive comments from consumers.

The most typical comment heard, according to Howe, is that consumers want to share who their favorite advertisers are.

“People believe that if they do that, they’ll get more ads from Nike and Apple and fewer ads from instant-growth pills,” he said.