At a time when Hollywood is focused on its streaming wars, Madison Avenue is getting further enmeshed in the data wars.
As advertisers press for the use of increasingly granular data on consumer preferences and habits to help them place their commercials in just the right venue and at the most opportune moment, Interpublic Group is launching a new unit devoted to helping marketers connect to customers no matter the screen they are scanning. The large ad-holding company, which operates agencies including McCann Worldgroup and Deutsch, is launching Matterkind, the latest in a recent series of offerings that help advertisers chase consumers in more effective fashion by using narrower definitions of who they are and what they buy.
“We are now able to address consumers across touch points where they are consuming content, when and where they will take action associated with the buying of clients’ products and services,” says Erica Schmidt, CEO of the new operation. Matterkind specializes in so-called “addressable” advertising, or commercials placed in front of customers who based on their likelihood to be more receptive to particular messages.
Being able to use data to pinpoint customers is becoming de rigueur. NBCUniversal has already announced its intention to sell advertising inventory from cable, broadcast and digital as part of a single platform, rather than separate ones based on distribution. AT&T last week said it would fold its Xandr advertising-and-analytics unit into its larger WarnerMedia division. Publicis Groupe of France last year bought Epsilon, a large data-marketing firm, in a bid to boost its standing in an industry that increasingly depends on reaching consumers via digital outreach.
Interpublic has tilted in this direction as well. In 2018, it agreed to purchase the bulk of Acxiom Corp. for $2.3 billion, a move that gave it access to new expertise in using anonymous consumer data and tailoring commercials to audiences based on that information. It is building Matterkind out of an agency called Cadreon that has been part of its Kinesso unit. Matterkind will operate in more than 70 markets across the world.
“With Acxiom as our core data layer, Kinesso providing technology applications, and the new Matterkind offerings, agencies across the Interpublic Group portfolio will be able to deliver highly personalized media and creative messaging that results in significantly enhanced outcomes for our clients,” says Philippe Krakowsky, who was named chief operating officer of Interpublic in September of last year, in a statement.
In a different era, advertisers used print, TV, radio and outdoor billboard for different kinds of messages. Now that many consumers use digital screens to stream music, read news content and watch video, there is a greater effort to find specific niches, such as soda drinkers, first-time car buyers or expectant mothers and use software and algorithms to place ads according to customer type.
Interpublic debuts the new unit at a time when advertisers tend to start focusing on allocating budgets for TV and other video-based media as part of the media industry’s annual “upfront” marketplace, when TV companies try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory for the next programming cycle. The spread of the coroanvirus pandemic is likely to weaken activity this year, though some advertisers are expected to be in a position to put down money as they might in a normal era.
Despite the effects of the contagion on economic activity, “wheels have been in motion,” says Schmidt, and clients have been asking for help as more consumers gravitate to streaming video, on-demand viewing and mobile screens. “Our conversations with upfront partners are really about how we can unlock more meaningful inventory,” she says.
The goal, says Arun Kumar, Interpublic’s chief data and marketing technology officer, is to create commercials people will want to respond to, rather than ignore or avoid. “If you improve the experience that consumers have, they will be more receptive to messages,” he says in an interview.
One client indicated a willingness to use the new Interpublic offering. “They have served as key strategic partners of ours as we’ve jointly developed new, innovative solutions to engage our customers in meaningful ways,”says Karen Belt, senior director of media strategy and buying at TIAA, in a statement. She is interested in working with Matterkind to “deliver better customer experiences across channels.”