Acxiom's New Chief Plans To Focus On Mobile

Although new Acxiom Corp. CEO John Meyer doesn't officially take the reins until Feb. 4, he already is making plans on how to lead the embattled data-management giant back into Wall Street's good graces.

Little Rock, Ark.-based Acxiom was founded in 1969, and grew to become one of the largest consumer data management companies, primarily serving direct-response marketers like credit card issuers. In recent years, the company made a number of key moves into the online space--starting with the acquisition of Digital Impact, an interactive marketing firm, in 2005.

Two years later, Acxiom followed up with a behaviorally targeted mobile marketing deal with Acuity Mobile, as well as the acquisition of the EchoTarget ad network--but by the end of 2007, the data giant faced tanking stock and two failed buyout attempts.

But Meyer--formerly president, global services group of telecom tech giant Alcatel-Lucent--says the days of Acxiom's stock underperforming are over. "The quote-unquote rocky waters were not indicative of the normal business," Meyer said. "There were external influences. We had some private equity relationships and proxy discussions that didn't pan out, but Acxiom is moving forward."

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Meyer, who will have a seat on Acxiom's board of directors, succeeds former Chairman and CEO Charles Morgan, who held both positions since 1975.

Under his watch, Acxiom will focus on streamlining operations for efficiency, improvements in responding to and satisfying customer issues, and making sure that employees are happy. "If we can improve those three things, then the share price will follow accordingly," Meyer said. He added that the company would continue its push into digital data management and targeting, with a particularly strong focus on mobile solutions.

"The digital world has always been defined as a broadband, PC-oriented space, and it's clear that the next frontier will be mobility and location-based services," Meyer said. "And Acxiom's role is to help our clients make sure that the right information gets delivered to the right consumer, wherever they are when they're about to make that purchase decision."

Meyer acknowledges that there are privacy issues when it comes to mobile data collection and usage, and the issue will require sensitivity throughout the entire infrastructure--including handset manufacturers, service carriers, the advertisers--and of course, the data management firms.

Despite the spate of recent scrutiny and possible regulation around the issues of behavioral targeting and online privacy, Meyer has no plans for Acxiom to launch a formal lobbying push or informational marketing campaign.

"It would never be a disservice to make sure that the government bodies and consumers understand what we do, how we do it, and the steps we take to protect consumer and corporate info," Meyer said. "But you need to do that on an ongoing basis. Not just launch a one-off push when you have a problem."

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