Acxiom has been perceived as an agency by many parts of the ad industry, including this publication, but now the data giant has sealed a multi-year deal with one of the biggest media agencies in the business: Starcom MediaVest Group.
The deal lets Starcom use Acxiom's Audience Operating System, which enables audience segmentation and targeting across online and offline media using first-party and third-party data. Some clients have already used the platform in beta, but the ultimate goal is more involved than simply extending that access: The two firms aim to develop new applications for the system, such as targeting TV advertising.
"We believe leveraging Acxiom client data with third-party media data across any channel is going to … shape the market in years to come," said Laura Desmond, CEO at Starcom MediaVest Group, which is part of Publicis Groupe.
Acxiom has historically worked with brands, retailers and other companies that use its data management, analytics and technology services. "This Starcom partnership is a huge deal for us because Acxiom has never had in its 40-year history a relationship with an agency," said Acxiom CEO Scott Howe.
The deal also gives Publicis Groupe the option of expanding offerings to Vivaki and other Publicis Groupe companies.
The relationship is not exclusive, though it should give Starcom MediaVest a head start when it comes to testing the Acxiom system with clients and developing apps that work with it, according to Ms. Desmond. "We will have a clear competitive advantage in terms of time and exclusivity," she said.
The partnership is planned to last for multiple years, though neither company would disclose the precise length. "There was never going to be a short-term agreement," Mr. Howe said. "Innovation isn't something that happens in a day."
"This gives both of us enough skin in the game, time and resources against this," Ms. Desmond added.
The deal also gives Starcom MediaVest first right of refusal for using the Acxiom system in overseas markets when it becomes available outside the U.S. Acxiom expects to roll out the audience targeting platform in the U.K. and China next. "Long-term, we view this as an international partnership," said Mr. Howe.
Mr. Howe and Ms. Desmond plan to discuss the progress of the relationship every two weeks. "This was an agreement between Laura Desmond and Scott Howe, and we are going to make this work," said Mr. Howe, who has a digital ad industry pedigree from years spent with Microsoft advertising and as VP and GM of Avenue A Razorfish, which was acquired by Publicis in 2009.
Publicis and Omnicom are in the middle of a merger approval process. When discussing the Acxiom deal, Ms. Desmond referred to increasing efficiency and targeting consumer segments on a big scale, concepts that were mentioned often when the Publicis-Omnicom merger was announced. There's no indication how the Acxiom deal might extend over to Omnicom agencies once the merger is completed.
The new partnership follows other deals with big digital players. A pact earlier this year gave Starcom MediaVest first crack at premium Twitter ad inventory, and is intended to give the agency the ability to influence new Twitter products. And a deal between Starcom and Yahoo announced last month gave the agency exclusive access to Yahoo's first-party data on its visitors.