How do you make sense of fragmented data in an ever evolving regulatory and competitive landscape? This week host Cameron D’Ambrosi welcomes Kyle Hollaway, Vice President and Head of Global Identity at Acxiom to the State of Identity podcast to discuss the shift to first party data and what that looks like for identity resolution.
Cameron D'Ambrosi, Managing Director at Liminal
Kyle Hollaway - Vice President, Head of Global Identity at Acxiom
Cameron [00:00:04] Welcome to a State of Identity, I’m your host, Cameron D’Ambrosi. Joining me this week is Kyle Holloway, Vice President and Head of Global Identity at Acxiom. Kyle, welcome back to State of Identity.
Kyle [00:00:14] Thank you. Cameron, great to be here.
Cameron [00:00:17] Awesome. Well, I you know, I joke about getting folks, you know, some some state of identity challenge coins for multiple time appearances. I guess at some point I will actually have to go mint, mint some of those challenge coins. So stay tuned on that front. But so great to have you back. You know, I always really, really interested to bring in as many perspectives as we can here to the podcast. And I think Acxiom is is a platform that’s really uniquely positioned to have an impact as digital identity continues to evolve and in this landscape continues to kind of shift underneath our feet as it were. But before we get into that, you know, I’m sure most of the longtime heads will will recognize you and know what you’re about. But for the new listeners, maybe folks who are not familiar with you, not familiar with Acxiom, would you mind sharing just a little bit about your background, your career journey, how you came to head up the global identity team at Acxiom?
Kyle [00:01:13] Sure. Yeah, thank you. And yeah, so from a career perspective, you know, I started off on the technical side of the house, so start off programing, actually, I’ll age myself to start with the mainframe programing. And as I say, kind of chiseling out things in cuneiform there on mainframe assembler. And, you know, really early on with Acxiom got very interested in the ability to resolve an individual in the known realm across, you know, variations of names and addresses. And very early on, you know, was working with clients, both developing and programing capabilities around that space, which ultimately evolved into Acxiom, you know, releasing a bill attack, which was revolutionary at the time as a referential graph to help resolve all these disparate views of an individual down and to want to really facilitate, you know, data integration, the ability to match and and find a consumer with all the noise you know, in the ecosystem. And so have always kind of been in that space. And even as I went through other job roles external to Acxiom and and in, you know, in kind of the marketing space always had an affinity for how do we ensure that we’re giving the right message to the right person at the right time on the right channel? You know, that whole spiel of how do you actually do that? Because it’s not as easy as it sounds, you know, it’s kind of cliché to just say, Oh, we’ll just get it right. But that’s hard to do with the fact that, you know, consumers are very dynamic. We tend to like to represent ourselves differently, depending on the ecosystem or the environment in which we’re operating. So you know how we do that in the offline space even varies because we move. We have name changes. We, you know. Represent ourselves differently. And then as we’ve seen, you know, marketing and advertising move into the digital sphere, that’s been even compounded by the fact that we have multiple email addresses, we use multiple devices. We want anonymity at times and we also want to be known at times, even in the digital sphere. So that’s all created this challenge of how to continue to recognize someone. So, you know, I’ve always stayed close to that functionality and about five years ago, had the opportunity come back. The Acxiom to lead the identity practice through really a really exciting time as we’ve seen change in the ecosystem, we’ve seen regulatory changes. We’ve needed to reinvent some of our capabilities to continue to meet, you know, the data ethics requirements, as well as to just fit into a very dynamic and ever changing ecosystem.
Cameron [00:04:25] That’s a fantastic intro, and, you know, diving a little bit more into to what you’re building it Acxiom, you know, is it safe to say that, you know, you guys have continued to evolve your perspective on digital identity and how you know you can meet your client expectations based on this continued evolution of expectations around the availability of both third party and first party data? I guess to to clarify that a little bit. You know, it feels like we’re in kind of one of these critical inflection points around the use of third party data where, you know, forward looking brands are, I think, recognizing that to the extent third party data is available now, we expect, you know, that hose to trickle to a very thin flow soon. As you know, Google finally rolls out their third party, you know, cookie blocking on Chrome. Apple has already kind of largely eliminated third party ad and app tracking on the iPhone because folks can can opt out of that. And, you know, 90 plus percent of consumers are opting out. Is it safe to say that in many ways, you see increasing shifts to first party data as one of the key ways that Acxiom is going to be able to support your clients moving forward around, you know, their identity resolution and graphing needs?
Kyle [00:05:49] Yes, absolutely. You know, in a fortuitous way, I guess you would say kind of the market’s coming to us because Acxiom has always been at the forefront of the first party data management scene, right? Both in the known space as well as in digital of helping brands really understand how to ingest their data, resolve it, assimilate it across the enterprise because there’s always silos, you know, within every enterprise. So how do you bring that data across those silos and then be able to execute against that? And so as we’ve seen, as you mentioned, you know, changes from some of the big players like Google, Apple, as well as the legislative changes that we’ve seen, whether it’s a, you know, what’s coming out in Virginia that’s going active in twenty twenty three and others. This aspect of, you know, while third party data we believe will still be available and still be relevant, its use is going to be, as you say, kind of more refined and it’s going to be very consent based where even those sources are going to have to have a provenance of the data that shows consent and capability that really the focus is shifting to first party that a brand sits at that relationship because all the privacy questions are really for those that are injecting themselves between the consumer and the brand, right? And that’s where the questions come around about privacy, because the relationship that’s being built and the value proposition is really directly from the consumer to the brand. And Acxiom, our product suite, especially within the real identity space, is is a brand owned capability. We’re acting as a agent of the brand and it’s a first party capability. They get to control and own their data. It’s not being aggregated into, you know, an Acxiom centralized function. These are all disparate private graphs that allow brands to understand consumers and do that on a first party basis, and it’s actually their own intellectual property at that point.
Cameron [00:08:03] Awesome. And you know, I guess unpacking a little bit for folks who are wondering, you know, what does this mean for my business and my brand? I think in some ways, you know, we’ve seen the Facebooks of the world really lamenting the decline of accessibility for for third party data. But I think that’s a unique case for most brands. It seems to me that the ability to meet their customer needs understand who those customers are and provide that high level of service that their customers expect is really still going to be possible with first party data, you know, might require some different approaches, but there is still ample opportunity for that customer experience to be enriched with, you know, purely first party data. Is that what you’re seeing on the on the ground in terms of how your clients are adapting to this shift? What are the trends you’re seeing? How are folks reacting to this need to transition away from third party data? And and what have some of maybe the unexpected benefits been as opposed to, you know, what? What are the shortcomings like? How are folks realizing, Wow, you know, this approach, I think, can work out for me and we can have our cake and eat it, too with regard to minimizing the collection and use of third party data while still hitting. Our mark on the customer experience fraud prevention side.
Kyle [00:09:28] Yeah, great question. You know, let’s just kind of boil it back down to the fact that, you know, deprecation third party cookies, the real impact is in. Targeting or retargeting consumers off of your owned media, you know, your own properties. That’s really where it’s impacting certainly the customer engagement for a brand on their own websites. You know, mobile apps and all that is not being restricted. Actually, it’s being fortified because now you’re really seeking to engage that consumer drive a value proposition that entices consumer to, you know, provide some level of PII or identification to to have that mutual value proposition. Right. And so for brands, it’s really putting them back into a driver’s seat where they understand the consumer. They own that engagement and then they’re able to manage that data within their own control, which, you know, then follows what’s being legislated from a data controller perspective and all of that. The the challenge really comes to then when you’re trying to target those same consumers that you know on your own first party basis of property, you know, if you’re out into the digital advertising ecosystem, how do you reach those? And what we’re finding is that brands that are mastering their own first party data are able to create relationships directly with other partners, whether they be platforms or publishers, and do more of a direct PII based sync that’s consented. That says, Oh, I have this consumer, you have this consumer, they’re both consented. Now we can make a direct relationship, and what’s happening is it’s actually bringing transparency, which was lost previously because with third party cookies and cookie syncs and all of that process, you know, it was not very transparent. He has multiple hops, multiple players. You’d lost a lot of fidelity and how how that was working. Now it’s allowing brands to have more direct control, more direct relationships with those publishers. It’s allowing publishers to actually take back more control because it’s it’s their audience, right? Because the consumers are interacting directly with those publishers. The publishers have that as a first party data capability, and now they’re able to more effectively monetize that because they’re actually building these direct relationships with the brands that want to reach those consumers. So, yeah, I think the hidden gem in here is that. Transparency is coming back to the forefront. Obviously, consumer consent is top of mind for everybody, so there’s a a more acceptable relationship being managed with the consumer on both the brand side and the the publisher side. And and it’s and it’s honestly kind of squeezing out, you know, some of the middlemen because it’s more of a direct relationship there. And I think that’s really one of the the value propositions there for brands that are actually embracing this and looking at this, it’s actually putting them back into a power position because they own that relationship with their brand consumers and it allows them to, you know, have more control in that space.
Cameron [00:13:09] That’s fantastic. You know, one of the other buzzwords that you hit on is this consent piece, which I think is another really interesting layer where we’re seeing companies need to adapt to this landscape, like along with the rise in both the regulatory changes to the space as well as the pulling of the third party data. You know, if you want to unlock the maximum value of this first party data, understanding how and when an individual has permission you to utilize that information is really, really critical. Also, something that many companies did not necessarily have the infrastructure the frameworks to support, right? It’s not something that in many ways you can go back and kind of build ad hoc. It needs to be you need to have a strategy and you need to have the technology in place to capture that consent and make it actionable. You know, if you don’t get that piece right, it’s not really worth the pixels are the bits it’s written on as it were. You know, what capabilities do you have and how are you helping companies understand, you know, how they should be going about capturing this consent and making sure from that compliance perspective their kind of tech and tying all the right boxes?
Kyle [00:14:20] Yeah, that’s great. So, you know, at the at the base level, Acxiom doesn’t we don’t own or, you know, we haven’t developed a specific consent management platform. You know, there’s a lot of players in the market and we recognize that we are more about integrating with those and helping brands actually begin to leverage their consent management platform that they’ve implemented in a, you know, ethical manner, such that it’s being integrated into their first party website. How brands are capturing data, how they’re paying attention to things like opt outs to be compliant, be able to track that. Now, within our private graph functionality, we have built in functionality that allows brands to take those consent vectors and then ensure that they are effectively using those in other channels as well, because consent management platforms tend to be kind of isolated. Primarily, you know, either within a website experience or through some mechanism. And so how do you continue to leverage that across the whole enterprise so that you’re not circumventing or, you know, kind of tripping over yourselves by, you know, targeting consumer and a different channel without really verifying their consent? And so through our private graph functionality, the ability to associate that consumer effectively across all their representations and associate that in effective manner with their consent. And then being able to execute against that, and then also, you know, we recognize that it’s still a business decision for brands on exactly when and how they implement certain capabilities. So, you know, one point would be, you know, within like CCP CPR a the right to be forgotten for consumers. You know, that’s kind of one metric, right? Well, there’s actually provisions in it, and we have built them within our capabilities of the ability to remember to forget somebody. Meaning you have to actually manage their identity to a degree so that when you reengage them, maybe they come through a different channel you can remember to forget them. Meaning that you’re you’re keeping with their original request of, you know, to forget them. And that seems like a little oxymoron, you know, to say, remember to forget them. But that’s important to do if you’re really wanting to take a very heightened level of of interest in what the consumer is actually asking for. You know, what’s the root of their request? Now, some brands may choose to take a different view and say, Hey, if the consumer is reengaging me, then I can reestablish an identity with them and manage that. And so there’s different ways to tailor that specifically to a brand’s perspective. But we, you know, we want to enable brands to actually kind of manage their own fate in that regard.
Cameron [00:17:37] When it comes to what you’re seeing in terms of the future of identity for lack of a better word, I know this is obviously a pretty broad question, but I think you’re up for answering it. You know, one of the things that that we’ve talked about a ton, you know, here at liminal is this notion of breaking down silos, which I think gets a lot of attention in some regards in terms of cross industry use cases, right? Like talking about, you know, the creation of personal identity ecosystems. In one of our latest research papers, which is really about, you know, how we can put consumers in control of an identity and kind of federate that out across different industries, you know, take it from health care to financial services to e-commerce. I think the flip side of that in an area where progress has maybe been a little bit more hard to come by is breaking down these internal silos, getting organizations thinking holistically about identity across the entirety of the lifecycle, which in many cases means getting folks who may be previously were only wearing, you know, a marketing hat to be thinking about, OK, where does the data that we’re using to get our message in front of consumers? You know, where is that trail of breadcrumbs, if you will, kind of stopping internally within our organization? And how can we leverage this really powerful asset that we have about, you know, who our consumers are, what devices they’re on, what their behaviors are and bring that further in the lifecycle to support things like account creation, account recovery, cross-selling to other products and services that my platform may be offering. Are you seeing in terms of, you know, how you’re working with your customers? Are we making progress on that front? It seemed like it’s been hard to come by. I’m hopeful that we’re going to continue to see those walls break down. What are you seeing on the front lines?
Kyle [00:19:28] Yeah, we are definitely seeing some progress in that area. You know, historically, certainly from an accident perspective, you know, we were very much in the marketing area, you know, to the CMO down, you know, functioning within that and trying to then reach out across other areas, operational areas, you know, and. And it was very siloed. We are now having conversations with brands that span every thing from single sign on. So which typically used to be buried in it? Right. It’s like how to generate the the consumer sign on, even if it was internal employee that’s even extant expanding out to start saying like, Hey, why are we not managing consumers, not just our own employees, consumers through a single sign on function all the way up into then into the compliance space, into this whole aspect of consent? And how is that managed, which goes into customer support and call center and then all the way over into marketing? And then even within all of that advertising, you just even sit farther out to another side of the organization, right in a different silo of just, oh, we’re doing advertising. And now because of this movement away from third party cookies, this aspect that first party data is really starting to take hold within advertising. Now you’re even starting to see the agencies and and the other partners for that enterprise being brought into the conversation. So this aspect that it is an enterprise, truly an enterprise solution and it’s necessary to tie the you know what we would call the, you know, identity thread throughout that enterprise is absolutely critical. And and we’re starting to see progress. There’s still questions and we see, you know, a lot of transition within organizations of who owns what and how that is being deployed and such. So I think, you know, certainly especially multinational enterprises still have a ways to go. But I mean, you are definitely seeing a different mindset there where people are talking about identity as a asset versus as just a cost center of something that we’re doing to enable a particular, you know, vertical or a particular department is now being viewed as an enterprise asset of how you’re bringing that identity together and then being able to maximize the use of that across all channels and all engagements.
Cameron [00:22:09] That’s very heartening to hear that, you know, that progress is being made. I think it’s it’s one of the areas that has been the biggest challenge in the sense that right, you any time you’re you’re dealing with entrenched stakeholders and, you know, internal budgets and things of that, some elbows can get thrown around and it can be harder to kind of get folks thinking about the greater good, if you will. But I think there’s so much value to be unlocked. And you know, the this shift to first party data, I think is is a prime opportunity to really understand, OK, you know, what do we have? What data assets do we have internally and how can we leverage them now that we’re turning that magnifying glass inward as opposed to relying on some of these third parties? And it’s going to to really, I think, open some eyes as to, OK, what are these assets that we have and how have we been under utilizing them? And how can we move forward and and really not just survive this transition from third party to first party data, but thrive?
Kyle [00:23:13] Yeah, and I think that ultimately the value is to the consumer. Right? Your engagement with that brand rather than being. I mean, I know I experience all the time a disjointed relationship with the brand because I may be engaging them on different channels. Some may be more in advertising or, you know, in a marketing sense where they’re trying to reach out to me. Others is a customer support where I’m going and I’m reaching into the organization. And so often those are very disparate, disjointed engagements and. The value of an enterprise starting to embrace this holistically and really view identity as an asset that can be leveraged across all channels brings to the consumer a much more, you know, more cohesive and intelligent engagement. And I think that’s ultimately what then allows consumers to start building trust. Because, you know, that’s you know, at the end of the day, all of this privacy, all of the legislation, all of this conversation around consent and deprecation of of third party signals and everything comes down to the fact that some trust was lost between brands or the ecosystem and consumers. And so by being able to recognize a consumer within that first party context, manage them correctly, make them feel known and appreciated by having a good value exchange is ultimately just going to drive business for the brand. You know, it’s going to really elevate them and as a consumer, bring loyalty and ultimately drive a lot of consumer satisfaction.
Cameron [00:24:59] I couldn’t agree more. I think, you know, putting the consumer first is really the the solution to all of these challenges. And you know, I think we’re moving to an era where, you know, consumers are going to be more empowered. They are going to want and expect more control over their data, more permissions around how their data is used. But I think from what we have seen, that does not mean that consumers want or expect a decline or a trade off in terms of what user experience they are looking to have. And I think that’s where the opportunity presents is. You know, if you are communicative, if you’re open with your consumers in terms of why you’re collecting the information, you want to collect, what you’re going to do with it, you can get that consent. You can get that permission because, you know, consumers have grown accustomed to the benefits that you know, sharing their data can produce, whether it’s tailored recommendations, whether it’s knowing, you know, when you when you do, you know, a cross-platform transaction, when you’re moving from mobile to desktop, moving from mobile to in branch like being able to tie those experiences together is something that consumers really appreciate. I think it’s imperative that you just keep those lines of communication open. Emphasize why you’re requesting what you’re requesting, what you’re going to do with it. And you can reap those benefits as a platform from that consent. Because consumers, you know, they they understand that it is a trade off and I think their expectation is completely reasonable, which is if I’m going to share my data with you, I want to know what you’re doing with it. I want to know how I can get it back and in exchange, you know, I want a superior UX.
Kyle [00:26:39] Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think at the end of the day, I mean, consumers can be somewhat dichotomy, right? There’s an aspect I think most all consumers have a moment where it’s kind of what I call the cheers effect. If you remember the old TV show Cheers, you know, want to go where everybody knows your name, right? You want to be known, you want to be appreciated, you want to be valued, you won’t be able to, you know, walk into a brand and say, Hey, Kyle. Right. And and feel known. But at same time, you don’t want to feel violated in the sense that that knowledge of you then is being monetized or or are being used in a way that is outside of your control and that you just become just an asset that’s just being shared around without your knowledge. So I think you hit it right on the head. It’s about transparency, not just within the ECOS as we talk about transparency of, you know, how advertising ecosystem works, but it’s also about the transparency with the consumer that’s ultimately about brands that consumers want. They want to know, Hey. I want you to know me, but I also want to know what you’re going to do with that information. Right? And so as long as you’re putting that up front, you’re letting consumers understand and you’re showing the value to the consumer. Of of how that brings value to them, you know, so that they can understand, it’s like, Oh, I’m going to get better targeted advertising that will drive some value to me as a consumer. OK, that’s great. But how do we emphasize that? How do we actually show that to the consumer? And then how does that translate to the actual engagement once I do respond to something? Am I actually going to see value? Do I actually, you know, get recognized more effectively such that in my experience is better than just, you know, anonymous person just browsing off off a random search, right? It’s like, am I actually going to see anything different here? And and that’s where the onus is kind of put back on the brands to say, Hey, are you effectively using this data that you’ve actually told the consumer that you’re collecting for the purposes that are supposed to bring value to them because ultimately that’s what it comes down to.
Cameron [00:28:55] Couldn’t agree more. All right, last question here before we wrap Magic Crystal ball, I know you have one. You know, give that thing a shake and, you know, would love to hear what your thoughts are in terms of what we can expect in the next few years in the space. You know, maybe to seed the pod a little bit like, do we expect Google to finally follow through with their, you know, snuffing of third party data? Do we expect a resurrection? You know, love to hear your thoughts in general.
Kyle [00:29:26] Wow. Yeah, I think it’s it’s going to be a little bit of a bumpy road, you know, for the next couple of years, as I said, there’s so much honestly, there’s so much money in the ecosystem and there’s so much in demand around these different components that it’s going to take us a while to settle on how we’re going to solve this collectively. I think that’s what we’re going to see is we’re going to see more of a collective mindset across both marketing and advertising ecosystems, especially in the digital realm of how that’s going to be done with this idea of the consumer at the front. I think Google is going to continue down their path and and there’s we’ve seen by Apple’s example that there was huge economic gain for them in the path that they took. I mean, if you correlate the deprecation of third party cookies and restriction of the IDFA to the advent of the Apple ad network and the massive growth that is seen over the last two years, there’s economic incentive to these walled gardens to act. And so they will. It’ll all be done under the umbrella of AI of privacy and you know, it’s for the consumer. But let’s all be very honest with each other, and there is very true economic incentive for the walled gardens to act in that way. And we will see a rise of what I would call mini walled gardens. You know, the the publisher specific walled gardens and the other players, whether it’s, you know, the Verizon’s, the NBC, Universal’s the Disney’s, you know, they’re going to create this because one legislation is kind of pushing them towards that. We’ve talked about the power of first party and they own that first party engagement with those consumers, you know, on those publisher sites. And so they’re going to follow suit in a regard of doing that. Now we’re going to see on the flip side of that, is this more of a consortium mindset of OK? So how do we then transact among each other of these walled gardens? You know, and so it’s going to be a little bit of a dichotomy appearing of more entrenched walled gardens, some with higher walls. Yet at the same time, a consortium view of saying, Hey, you know, we all have to work together to solve this in a privacy compliant fashion. I think a lot of that is going to be around the ability to share first party audiences together. And be able to have transparency in that and be able to then pass that transparency on to the consumer through consent management and exposure of how your data is being used. So it’s going to be an interesting journey. And I think we’re still going to have kind of two camps, but those camps are going to figure out a better way to work together.
Cameron [00:32:29] Couldn’t have said it better myself. I think you’re spot on on those predictions, but you know, only time will tell. I can’t say I had any of what’s happening in twenty two on my prediction sheet either. So, you know, we’ll see how it all shakes out. Kyle, thank you so much for your time. Before we go, opportunity for shameless plug is how to say for folks who want to reach out to you directly want to reach out to the Acxiom team to learn more about the platform your capabilities. What are the best places for them to go? Yeah, I mean, first, let
Kyle [00:33:01] me just go to actually. MJ.com: I mean, we’ve got a great set of information there that will drive you directly into some of our value propositions, our capabilities, you know, just search on real identity, you know, Acxiom, real identity. You can also if you want to hear more similarly shameless plug for our reciprocal podcast here, which and which you have been a guest on, which is, you know, Acxiom dot com slash real talk. And you know, you can get some information there as well. But ultimately, it’s easy to just come through the website. We’ve got a lot of great information, or you can reach me on LinkedIn. You know, Kyle Holloway on LinkedIn and be happy to connect you with the right folks at Acxiom to further any of these conversations. So I appreciate that.
Cameron [00:33:48] Amazing. Thank you so much. We’ll talk to you again soon.
Kyle [00:33:52] All right, thank you very much.
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