Horizon Media partners with TransUnion to build out its own data marketing arm
Horizon Media, one of the largest media agencies in the U.S., has partnered with TransUnion to build out its own in-house data hub for people-based and targeted marketing capabilities.
Under the partnership, the companies say TransUnion will help Horizon improve personalized execution for people-based marketing and clients' advertising initiatives. It will lean on TransUnion's identity and audience-attribute data sets to “help build Horizon's identity spine from the ground up, creating a common ID layer to power marketing decisions across all touchpoints,” according to an announcement of the partnership.
Laura McElhinney, chief data officer at Horizon Media, tells Ad Age that “knowing [third-party] cookies would be a thing of the past,” it was critical for the agency “to build our own identity spine.” She says talks with TransUnion, most commonly known as a consumer credit reporting agency, began about a year ago.
McElhinney says the partnership was more attractive to Horizon than “going through third-party data aggregators.” She adds that TransUnion has not faced any data breaches or other privacy issues, making it an ideal partner for Horizon.
“We invest extremely heavily in our data system,” Matt Spiegel, executive VP and head of TransUnion's media vertical, tells Ad Age. “We've ensured we have top-notch security. As for [internet privacy] legislation, we will be front and center to ensure we are not only compliant but we are creating new tools and solutions to make sure consumers are respected in how their data is used.”
As Ad Age has previously reported, digital advertising is being upended by changes to how ads are bought and sold. Privacy regulation is moving forward with the California Consumer Privacy Act in the U.S. and the European Union’s Global Data Protection Regulation abroad. In January, Google began phasing out third-party cookies—the foundation for targeting users through programmatic advertising—from its popular Chrome browser. Other browsers, including Apple’s Safari, implemented similar measures to prevent tracking users all over the web.
Spiegel, who was formerly the managing director of MediaLink, was hired by TransUnion in August 2018 to spearhead the company's new-at-the-time media vertical. He was brought on to further the company’s “ability to deliver the addressable solutions required by enterprise marketers and media companies to make informed modeling, strategic investment planning and digital targeting decision,” according to TransUnion.
“Historically, it’s fair to say TransUnion was not on the tip of your tongue in media business or in marketing solutions,” Spiegel says. “I joined almost two years ago now to build out our capabilities there.”
McElhinney says Horizon “specifically sought TransUnion out for its uniqueness.” TransUnion says it collects and aggregates information from more than 1 billion consumers in over 30 countries, and its customer base spans roughly 65,000 businesses. Spiegel maintains that TransUnion's media vertical is separate from its credit-reporting business.
With the TransUnion partnership, Horizon says it will be able to “resolve individual or household identities and match, build and leverage audiences directly for its advertising clientele. As a result, Horizon’s clients can tap into this strategic data layer to execute more precise campaigns and activations with confidence,” according to the agency. Horizon had already established an identity infrastructure but it says the partnership will allow it to develop “a framework for reconciling disparate data sources, deepening its client’s data-driven strategies and enabling faster connections to deliver IDs across the digital ecosystem.”
Despite concerns around how their data is harvested, McElhinney says consumers still “expect more personalized experiences from advertisers and marketers."
“Data is the new oil and Horizon is saving the money on acquisition and mining instead in a unique partnership,” comments Greg Paull, R3 co-founder and principal. “Marketers will question just how deep the data sharing will go, and only once there’s proof cases will we all know."
Paull says Interpublic Group of Cos., Publicis Groupe and Dentsu Aegis Network “collectively invested over $7 billion” in acquiring data marketing arms Acxiom, Epsilon and Merkle, respectively. Paull notes those seemed like “sound investments” but “the business case is still playing out while the planes are taking off.”