Although Plethora’s technology was attractive to PCH in its own right, the acquisition is part tech grab, part acqui-hire. “It’s as much about the talent as it is about the platform and the technology,” said Mark Cullinane, VP and general manager of PCH Digital. All three Plethora employees, including Anderson, will be based in New York City.
PCH, which now sees more than 16 million unique visitors each month, has been in the first-party data business since it was founded in the 1950s. Because users have to register to play games, enter sweepstakes and buy goods on pch.com and other PCH properties, the company’s access to personally identifiable information is formidable. As its customers became increasingly mobile, PCH realized it was time to start to capitalizing on cross-screen.
“We’re beginning to augment what we’ve done for decades, but now we’re doing from a mobile standpoint to take advantage of things like device IDs,” Cullinane said. “There’s a lot going on behind the curtain with regards to how we approach cross-channel, but our fundamental approach is similar to what Facebook has been doing with identity.”
Like Facebook, PCH starts with a known logged-in user and then takes steps to anonymize that person while still being able to use their stated interests and activity to create segments for targeting and connect it to their anonymous mobile identifier.
“For example, we know that someone has engaged with gaming content or we know that a person owns a Honda, but that’s not tied back to a personal identifier,” said Bagdasarian.
PCH handles the privacy issues associated with personally identifiable information by scoring its data separately within two different data warehouses, one of which holds PCH’s PII, which is specific to registration and commerce activity. The other holds non-PII elements, like behavioral characteristics.
The ultimate goal – and a big part of why PCH scooped up Plethora – is to create better scale for advertisers.
“The rationale behind acquiring a programmatic platform is to extend the availability of our first-party data, which is something we’ve wanted to do on PCH properties for a long time – but we’ve had to deal with the constraints of what a publisher could provide for scale,” Bagdasarian. “PCH wants to be one of the companies that can provide scalable reach for advertisers that isn’t solely based on a lot of probabilistic attributes. This is real data.”