Experian Benefits From Television’s Data Boom

Big Data
As demand for advertising data grows, credit reporting agencies are getting into the game. (Image credit: Getty Images)

With the television business putting a premium on being able to identify subscribers and target viewers, Experian, best known as the consumer credit reporting company, is benefiting as demand for its data grows.

Media buyers and TV networks have long used Experian data to figure out which shows had high concentrations of the consumers likely to buy a particular product.

Now, with more video going digital and targeting techniques improving, the industry is working to send the exact right ad to the right viewers at the right time. That has advertisers looking to use more data from the company’s marketing services unit in more ways.

“As the ecosystem pushes more towards identity-based marketing companies like Experian become more and more important,” Dan Aversano, senior VP of data, analytics and advanced advertising at TelevisaUnivision, said. “They sort of hold the keys to the kingdom.”

Experian logo

In addition to Experian, TransUnion has entered the market providing consumer data for the TV business, buying TruOptik in 2020 and Neustar in 2021.

The television business for Experian’s Marketing Services has been showing consistent double-digit growth year over year, Chris Feo, senior VP for global sales and partnerships at Experian’s marketing services unit, told B+C Multichannel News. 

“It’s growing faster than we anticipated both last year and so far in this fiscal year,” Feo said. 

As the business continues to accelerate, the company has doubled the size of its addressable-TV organization in the last six to 12 months, he said.

“As more and more companies enter the general TV space, whether you’re a publisher, an advertiser or anyone in between that’s doing measurement, insights, analytics, our data or our services will play a role in some part of that value exchange,” he said. 

In June, Comcast’s FreeWheel unit launched an audience-identity initiative aimed at connecting first-party and third-party IDs, and Experian was among the data companies supporting the new system.

“All three of our core products are enabled there,” Feo said. “You can see how our data or our services are made available. We’ll take the agnostic approach and have it in as many places in the value chain as possible.”

Making Use of Behavior Data

Feo joined Experian when it acquired Tapad for $280 million in 2020. With Tapad, Experian acquired the capability to make information about consumer behavior in the offline world available for use in addressable, digital-video, connected-TV and programmatic applications. That means that Feo’s TV group now works with the ad tech sector, in addition to more traditional TV companies.

“That convergence is happening in real time,” he said. “The Trade Desk wouldn’t have been in the TV category five years ago. They obviously are now.”

Media companies and advertisers come to Experian for three main things: identity resolution, matching and audience enrichment.

Identity resolution and matching are Experian’s two biggest pieces of business with the TV sector. “Very rarely will you have audience enrichment, unless you have those two fundamental pieces,” Feo said, adding audience enrichment is “definitely the fastest-growing in terms of customer adoption.”

Identity resolution means connecting a viewer or subscriber to data about their interests and purchase habits online or offline, and making it usable in a digital context, Feo said. Experian uses Living Unit IDs (LUIDs) to identify individuals pseudonymously. It has about 124 million LIUDs representing about 95% of the U.S. population, marrying that to Tapad’s digital identifiers. 

Chris Feo of Experian

Chris Feo, senior VP for global sales and partnerships at Experian’s marketing services unit. (Image credit: Experian)

Matching means working across media, measurement and data companies to make sure buyers, sellers and marketers are all talking about the same digital consumer.

Audience enrichment is adding to what TV companies understand about their viewers and subscribers, from when they’ve bought a car to their grocery buying habits.

Feo notes that a growing number of companies are licensing Experian’s identity spine.

Every time a new streaming service starts, it needs to know about its subscribers beyond the name and address they provide when they sign up. Similarly, audience-measurement systems use Experian data to validate their counting and categorize the people they count by age, sex, gender and other characteristics central to the advertising business.

“For our part, we have found that Experian data — which we leverage in a few different ways across identity matching and some of their audience enhancement solutions ­— is quite useful from a TV viewership perspective in order to understand anonymized household viewing,” Nick Chakalos, chief strategy officer at software provider VideoAmp, said.

“It’s no secret that TV is becoming more sophisticated as addressable and data-driven linear takes a more prominent role throughout the industry. This shift aligns with VideoAmp’s mission to create and drive a more sophisticated advertising ecosystem that redefines how media is bought, sold and valued,” Chakalos said. “As an outgrowth of this evolution for the industry, capitalizing on the opportunity of advanced audiences and transacting on new currencies is crucial for both media buyers and sellers. In that regard, we benefit from the data and services Experian and others provide to help us deliver.” 

Experian has long been involved in audience measurement, including work with industry leader Nielsen. In February, Nielsen and Experian said they were expanding their relationship, with Nielsen using Experian data to enhance its Digital Ad Ratings and contribute to the development of the Nielsen One cross-media measurement effort.

Shifting Into Services

Experian wants to move from providing data to providing data services, Feo said. “You can either license our data and do the matching right yourself. Or you can come to Experian and license our matching services,” he said.

For example, if NBCUniversal wanted to include Disney’s inventory to expand audience reach for advertisers, Experian has both sets of data to make that happen, Feo said. And if NBCU wanted its consumers to be measured by VideoAmp, while not sharing their names, phone numbers or addresses, it could tap Experian to provide that matching service.

All of this data demand and manipulation has spawned a group interest in “clean rooms,” or platforms that allow companies to share user information with advertisers without violating their privacy. Feo said Experian remains agnostic and is willing to use the clean-room facilities its clients prefer. 

“We are continuing to invest in something called ‘identity as a service,’ which is making our data and our matching capabilities sit organically inside of clean-room environments so that customers can utilize them in a scalable way and the data never leaves the clean-room environment,” Feo said.

Experian’s identity-as-a-service is currently working in beta with two clean-room providers. One of them is Snowflake. Last October, when Snowflake launched its media data clouds, Experian was one of the first partners, along with Amazon Web Services, Disney Advertising Sales, Horizon Media and The Trade Desk. The other provider has not been disclosed.

The key is that data services be available and interoperable, according to TelevisaUnivision’s Aversano.

“It gets really expensive and very, very cumbersome from a time and a labor standpoint,” Aversano said. “That is especially true when everything is ad hoc or one-off. We can’t operate like that. We need large, scaled and interoperable data sets that can be used for activation in an always-on type manner.

“Whether it’s TransUnion, whether it’s Experian, there are certainly differences and competitive advantages that exist, but there’s not one clear winner,” Aversano said. “Big chunks of the ecosystem are working with Experian, but chunks are working with TransUnion. The key is interoperability. That is starting to exist in a big way. If you have an advertiser who’s using Experian as their spine, or TransUnion, we can work with both.”

Looking forward, Feo sees Experian’s role in attribution services growing as more companies look to use data to measure how well their ad campaigns move product off shelves and out of showrooms. 

Attribution is growing into a fourth business category for Experian Business Services, he said.

“In TV, it’s becoming an emerging — call it product line, or use case — where Experian’s being leveraged across the addressable and connected TV space,” Feo said. “Historically it’s been an add-on feature for when you use our data for targeting. It’s starting to emerge as a stand-alone.” ▪️

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.