Acxiom Global CEO Chad Engelgau Bridges The Gap Between Media And First-Party Data

Acxiom’s new global CEO Chad Engelgau, appointed in early March, has a big job ahead of him, navigating clients through privacy laws and browser restrictions while integrating the business with parent company IPG.

Engelgau, a 12-year Acxiom vet, reports directly to Arun Kumar, IPG’s chief technology and data officer. Acxiom sits alongside IPG’s programmatic unit Cadreon and the data and tech group Kinesso, which derived from Mediabrands last fall.

Acxiom works autonomously with clients on first-party data management, which makes up two-thirds of its business. But it will pull in Cadreon, Kinesso and Mediabrands to help clients activate that first-party data in their media campaigns.

“Once you bridge media into the scenario, Kinesso, Cadreon and Mediabrands provide that part of the business,” Engelgau said.

Engelgau will focus on cross-selling IPG’s services to Acxiom clients, and vice versa. So far, the combined offering won over American Express, which consolidated its $400 million media business with UM after the Acxiom acquisition.

“Clients are asking us to unify data in a privacy compliant way and help them manage that on their own properties, but also the way their media agency uses it,” Engelgau said. “Pulling those things together is where we’re seeing a lot of opportunity and growth.”

He spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: What does Acxiom need to accomplish now that it’s part of IPG?

CHAD ENGELGAU: The world’s biggest marketers have spent a tremendous amount of money to manage their first-party data. They’ve managed billions of dollars in media through a media agency of record. How that media has operated has been very disconnected from the marketing technology.

Acxiom has over one thousand clients that are 90%-plus unique to the Mediabrands portfolio. Our clients are always looking for better media performance. We can invite Kinesso and Cadreon into those conversations [to create] a joint solution.

How is cross-selling going? What joint products are clients interested in?

Whoever has the client relationship would lead that conversation. We’ve been talking to a lot of clients about identity graph solutions. How do you normalize your first-party data to get a consistent view of the customer and improve your business processes?

Another area where we’re seeing a lot of traction is taking anonymous digital data and combining that with other anonymous data to get a picture of how audiences are performing.

How does Acxiom differentiate from Kinesso?

Acxiom owns a data and technology layer [that] creates value from first-party data. If you want to connect all of the insights you have from first-party data and activate that in media, you would bring in Kinesso.

Mediabrands Data and Technology Group [now Kinesso] has been building the software for audience creation, distribution, modeling, insights and analytics for eight years. We apply machine learning to optimize campaigns. And we have a reporting suite that stitches aggregated data across providers to get insights on how media is performing.

Is the goal to eventually merge Acxiom and Kinesso?

Not right now. We just created Kinesso. That organization will continue to mature.

There’s an opportunity to provide solutions not just for Mediabrands, but clients overall. The more clients buy into, they can improve over time. But we’ve done a lot of research. Certain customers don’t want to buy technology from an agency. Keeping these separate helps clients buy the way they want.

How much of a focus is Acxiom’s third-party data business with new privacy laws and cookie deprecation?

We lived through GDPR and are compliant. The data business is healthy. Consumer insights makes clients more efficient and allows us to see relevant content. That process reduces the cost of goods and services overall. It’s a great value exchange that we’ll continue to focus on.

Is privacy becoming more of a focus in terms of the products Acxiom is building?

We’ve been implementing consent management frameworks with a focus on metadata, so our clients can understand the rights under which [data] is collected and the associated retention policy. These are more important now.

One interesting part of legislation is you have to verify people’s identity before you show them data that is unique to them. We see this as a growing part of our business that we can use for incremental services. For example, companies offer special discounts to first responders, military or state citizens. Verifying identity is the key to unlocking those discounts. That’s a solution that a lot of IPG customers would be interested in.

Most major marketers work with Acxiom. Have you lost any accounts over competitive concerns over your new ownership?

Acxiom is open. We’re not a conflict company. One of the reasons why they kept us independent – and one of the reasons why we continue to grow – is we offer our solutions to clients across the board.

We’ve historically had relationships with non-IPG agencies. In many cases we continue to be utilized by those organizations. But we also know the strategic solutions we bring together with the holding company is going to differentiate us from others.

It’s been a year and a half since the acquisition. We continue to win business, clients continue to trust what we do and we haven’t seen anybody shying away from the business.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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