The new data exchange BlueKai launched publicly this week with an unusual value-add for consumers. Anyone can go to the site and check in detail exactly what any BlueKai cookie on your system is tracking about your online travels. In my quick check, a visit to Autobytel.com added a cookie segmenting me as shopper for a car, a sub-compact or sports car -- and specifically a Mini. BlueKai's "Registry" also lets me remove any of those segment indicators from my cookie. And so, as CEO Omar Tawakol tells us here, the company is trying to be all about transparency throughout the value chain. BlueKai launches with veterans of Revenue Science (including Tawakol), Yahoo, and RightMedia at the helm.
Behavioral Insider: How is this exchange for behavioral data different from previous models?
Omar Tawakol: We wanted to create an economy and marketplace for data that is distinct and separate from the marketplaces for advertising. The biggest problems you had in behavioral targeting was [that] people couldn't get enough scale on high-quality data. To make up for that they would bundle in low-quality data sources which would hurt the performance and the reputation for BT. If you are going to get good data, you are going to have to get it at scale. Search works so well. You don't have to guess. When a user says Bellevue Toyota Prius. they are looking for a Prius dealer. You don't need many algorithms. Intent data was the thing that worked the best for a lot of targeting.
BI: Where do you get intent data?
Tawakol: The top online travel agencies and retailers or car configurator sites -- most of them won't give the data to anybody. And these guys know more than even Google does about your travel plans. You get very rich information in one place. And then you have the [publishers] in areas where you don't have context, so publishers and marketers need the data. But the business model is broken. Ad networks call up a site and say, put up your pixel and give me everything and if I make use of it I will write you a check at the end of the month.
The site that adds the really valuable data thinks that is really bad. First of all, which of the 300 networks do I choose? My tech team doesn't want me to put more than two or three outside pixels on my site. This is a pretty unappetizing proposition. So that is where the data exchange is born. Sites want to monetize and control their data. The marketers, ad networks and publishers really need that data. So we created an exchange with a few new and interesting things.
BI: But there are data exchanges in the market. What are you proposing that is new?
Tawakol: First, it gives to the data seller some control so they can say who can buy the data or not. Second, the data is bought outright. You can't just take all the data and then come back and say, here is your share of how we used that data. You bid for the data on a granular level. You say exactly what you want. You configure your own segments. You auction for it. You get it. You pay.
BI: Walk me through a buy-side example.
Tawakol: You could say, I only want people looking at Toyota Prius, in an auto-configurator or research site, and I want them in the following MSA. Very specific data. You then put in a bid process, when you want the data and where to ship it. If you win the bid, the second you get access to that data, you owe money for it. We are not forcing you to put the data through our ad server. We're not the sales force like an ad network saying we are going to target for you. Control is completely with you. You get to deal with it as a buyer.
BI: You are also setting transparency standards in privacy.
BI: Why would sites with intent data work with you after not working with others in the past?
Tawakol: They haven't felt like they were getting their fair share. They feel they are having to choose between a couple of ad networks, and don't feel that good about the business model. They feel they have lost control on their transparency. There is no competition for data. There is a complete lack of control, no competitive marketplace, and most importantly, you don't pay outright. We have several of the top-ten auto research sites, and in excess of 10 million unique intenders within auto alone. We are very strict on what we define as auto intenders. In travel, we have one of the top-four travel players and are working with others coming soon. In retail we have a few of the top sites. The data is very good because consumers are going there not to read, but precisely to buy or do price comparison shopping.
BI: Let's go back to this Registry. What measure of control are you giving consumers here?
Tawakol: In the last few decades, a lot of data has been aggregated on consumers and in general it has been done in the dark. Why not give the consumer transparency and control? In the Registry, you see the different categories of data we would have on your cookie. Then we give you edits. You might say that it was a friend who did that action, so you can edit it. You can opt-out completely. But we have a concept of rewards. You can select a charity and say that if we make money off of this data, then we reward one of these charities. We think this concept of rewards is early days, and it may take five or ten years. People will begin to bank their data assets as if it is a first-party asset like money. It is similar to loyalty points for travel. We think data will have that nature once people get comfortable with the idea that they can manage it and control it.
BI: And it might become a commodity they can trade.
Tawakol: The pathway to get there was first to build the economy itself that has its rules and has buyers and sellers. And we become the Switzerland of that economy. We are not in the ad business. We're not competing with our customers. We're always getting the maximum monetization you can. And then make sure there's the transparency for the consumer so they can start seeing what is going on and start participating. Then evolve that to rewards and maybe then to cash. That is why you have to have this participation start with the B2B side, because you get massive scale very quickly.