Credit Bureau TransUnion Launches Consumer Targeting Platform, Can Validate People's Identities

TransUnion, one of the Big 3 U.S. consumer credit reporting bureaus, this morning launched a new consumer audience targeting platform leveraging one of the most indelible forms of validation: people’s financial identities.

While the new platform, dubbed TruAudience, doesn’t explicitly reveal any personally identifiable information about the creditworthiness of the 270 million Americans it has profiles on, it is able to use it to validate who they are and associate their identities with a wide range of other audience attributes and consumer behaviors.

The platform, which has been 2.5 years in the making, follows TransUnion’s acquisition of three pure-play audience-targeting platforms, data and technology providers -- Tru Optik, Signal Digital and TruSignal -- and is being offered as a suite of three distinct business use cases:

  • TrueAudience Identity, which resolves the identity of American individuals, devices and households both in “logged in and open environments” in order to target, measure and attribute actions to those identities.

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    TruAudience Data Marketplace (formerly Tru Optik), which associates those identities to a wide range of audience segments from dozens of marketing industry consumer data providers, such as Kantar, Comscore, IHS Market, Lotame and NCSolutions.

  • TruAudience Platform, which leverages TransUnion’s proprietary identity graph for marketers who want to onboard their own first-party data to model those audiences across the U.S. marketing universe.

The move is not the first time one of the Big 3 U.S. credit bureaus has diversified into audience targeting.

In 2004, Experian acquired media-planning giant Simmons, and began integrating its massive National Consumer study database with its proprietary American consumer segmentations.

While Experian still has a marketing services division providing consumer identity, targeting, activation and measurement, the Simmons Research brand has subsequently been integrated with rival MRI (Mediamark Research Inc.), as part of consumer research giant GfK’s portfolio.

“The credit data -- anything related to someone’s financial history, wherewithal, etc. -- is highly regulated. We do not use that data in our marketing identity database. That is not available to us,” assures Matt Spiegel, executive vice president-marketing solutions and head of the Media and Entertainment Vertical at TransUnion, and one of the architects of the TruAudience platform.

Spiegel, a long-time ad industry expert (Omnicom, MediaMath, MediaLink, etc.), whom TransUnion recruited three years ago, explains there are two things TransUnion can utilize between its core credit bureau and consumer audience data businesses.

“One, is rely on all the data science capabilities that we have on various signals. And two, we’re able to validate against core PII when we go out and source other marketing data,” he explains, adding: “Let me be clear about what that means. It means I cannot touch anything about your financial records or anything like it for marketing data, except in regulated, allowed use cases. Otherwise, our marketing data does not touch that environment. Period. End of sentence.”

The fundamental value of TransUnion’s financial identity data for the new services, Spiegel said, is that when it is sourcing other consumer marketing data, it can utilize its credit identity database to “validate” it.

“That’s the extent of it.”

And it is the core attribute of those indelible consumer identities, he says, that helps differentiate TransUnion’s new offering from the universe of “Big Data” platforms the marketing and media industries now have to choose from.

That, plus the proprietary technology, data and processing of the consumer data signal platforms it has acquired over the past couple of years, as well as the acumen of Spiegel and other members of the TruAudience team.

Spiegel said the new platform already has interest from a number of big advertisers and agencies, and at least one major independent media services agency -- Horizon Media -- as a customer.

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