“Probabilistic matching complements our deterministic matching capabilities,” Gupta said. “It’s becoming really important in channels like mobile where it takes more time to aggregate enough deterministic data to have significant reach.”
LiveRamp’s purpose when founded in 2011 was to enable brands to bring their offline data into the digital environment and make it available across various marketing applications.
Over the years, LiveRamp inked more than 200 partnership deals with digital marketing platforms and data providers to aid in that endeavor, including Adobe, Adelphic, AdRoll, AppNexus, AOL, Tapad, Tremor, TruSignal, TubeMogul, Turn and Twitter.
Josh Manion, founder and CEO of Ensighten, another LiveRamp partner, compared the relationship between LiveRamp and its associates thusly: “Think of it like plumbing. We know what’s going on inside a particular house, by which I mean a brand’s website, their mobile app, etc. That’s the water. But we also want to connect those pipes up to the city’s water main.”
Customer Link takes advantage of the same pipes LiveRamp uses for onboarding to develop a unified customer view, which brands can use to create and share audience segments with their internal data teams, agencies, analytics tools, DMPs and so on.
“If onboarding enables data to flow in one direction from the brands to marketing applications, then Customer Link leveraging the exact same infrastructure allows for data to flow in both directions,” said Acxiom CEO Scott Howe on Nov. 5 during the company’s Q2 2016 earnings call. (Acxiom’s fiscal year confusingly ends in March.)
While LiveRamp and Drawbridge have been passing data back and forth for several years, the Customer Link partnership is different. Drawbridge is licensing its graph data to LiveRamp as a product separate from its media selling business to power the probabilistic device connections for Customer Link.
“When we talk about a unique, anonymous customer ID across online and offline, we’re talking about linkages across devices, channels and data sources,” said Drawbridge CEO and founder Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan. “And for that to happen, connectivity is the kernel.”
But connectivity is also where it ends – at least for LiveRamp. The company wants to be known as the Switzerland of data so Customer Link, as its name denotes, just makes the links. Targeting, analytics, measurement, attribution and all the rest is left to whichever other vendors a client has partnered with.
LiveRamp has around 25 active customers signed up for Customer Link thus far, including Nielsen Catalina Solutions, American Express, Sony, TiVo and TD Ameritrade, as well as 25 marketing platform partners tapping the service – Adobe, comScore, MediaMath, Nielsen and the newly Neustar-owned MarketShare among them.
Although Acxiom CFO and EVP Warren Johnson told investors during the company’s Q2 call that it’ll be too early to see any material revenue contribution from the customers using Customer Link this year, the expectation is that anyone using LiveRamp for onboarding will ultimately use Customer Link as well.
Overall, Acxiom’s Connectivity unit (née LiveRamp) – the umbrella under which Customer Link sits – is a bright spot for Acxiom, especially when compared with its Marketing Services and Audience Solutions unit, which is set to split in Q3. While the latter’s revenue was down 3% YoY, clocking in at $185 million, the Connectivity unit’s revenue was up 65% this year over last to $22 million.
In other cross-device partnership news, Tapad, Drawbridge’s chief competitor, recently trumpeted its own high-profile hookup, announcing in mid-October that data from its identity graph would be integrated into Oracle Data Cloud’s own ID graph. Tapad’s graph uses a core of deterministic data to to train its probabilistic matching algorithm.
As in the case of LiveRamp, Oracle is coming around to probabilistic data’s role in cracking the cross-device conundrum.
“The techniques the data cloud focused on initially were deterministic – and we continue to focus on deterministic – but, if you look at the volume of interactions across mobile and across devices, deterministic doesn’t give enough volume yet,” Oracle Data Cloud SVP and GM Omar Tawakol told AdExchanger at the time. “It takes years to get to a high match rate.”