Experian/Hitwise Combo Creates Bold Play

Last week, Experian made a bold play to compete in online consumer data by purchasing Hitwise. The company created an interesting competitive advantage over traditional competitors, such as Equifax, TransUnion, Harte-Hanks and Acxiom, and also made itself competitive with a set of organizations, such as comScore and Nielsen//NetRatings.

However, the most significant aspect of the acquisition is that Experian/Hitwise has become a catalyst in a tremendous opportunity for marketers.

The big opportunity is that Experian has packaged a comprehensive advertising media mix offering for direct marketers, which forces a consolidation of the roles of online and offline advertising analytics within large advertisers. This will make advertising more effective and relevant to the changing buying behavior of consumers, who are voting with their "clicks," and no longer with their mail and phone responses.

One of the major issues for advertisers is the lack of a data set by which to plan and manage both online and direct marketing campaigns. Advertisers are trying to "chase their consumers," who are increasingly responding to online (search and display), instead of direct (email, telemarketing, direct mail) marketing. Managing marketing across multiple channels requires data integration from many different sources.

In most large companies, the efforts are very siloed. Experian's traditional focus on the effectiveness of email, direct mail, and telemarketing combined with Hitwise's data on targeting for search and interactive may provide a more comprehensive view that companies can use to effectively manage their media mix and coordinate campaigns.

The challenge is bringing ongoing visibility to the efficacy of each channel. The combination of Experian's information with Hitwise's market data brings a new component to the advertising analytics space--an overall channel mix analysis. This type of analysis would allow maximized campaign effectiveness rather than effectiveness channel by channel.

Hitwise's expansive datasets on consumer behavior online consist of analysis of specific search terms entered into the various search marketing platforms such as Google, Yahoo, and MSN. This data is derived from the Internet Service Providers on which the search traffic moves and is therefore comprehensive. It is used by advertisers to figure out the penetration of searchers for various terms (like "laptop," "credit cards" or "automobiles") on each of the search platforms, and the sources of search traffic, so marketers can determine how to spend their budgets.

The convergence of Experian's demographic information for direct marketing channels and Hitwise's demographic data for search and interactive media programs has furthered a market need for technologies to better the performance in the overall media mix planning based on actual conversion rate data. These technologies are essential to ensure that interactive programs support all the channels effectively. More advertisers will begin asking for this type of information, combined with the information on ROI of interactive channels to justify increased spending on interactive, given its continued effectiveness.

Marketing is becoming increasingly fragmented. Consumers are responding to online marketing more so than offline. The budgets to support this move are migrating from traditional channels to online channels perhaps more slowly than should be. Experian has a chance to take advantage of that migration by providing the data to support better cross-channel planning. Solutions that can help marketers coordinate online and direct marketing programs, can leverage this data to provide better visibility into the effectiveness of these channels and make sure budget is spent where it makes the biggest difference.

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