Online Marketing, or The Hymn of Acxiom

As I’ve gotten more and more into the professional side of blogging over at Crazy Together, I’ve learned surprisingly little about advertising. Google AdSense is pretty easy to set up for your own website, but you don’t really learn much about how those ads are chosen for display on your site. I’ve actually learned more about advertising from a song by Vienna Teng called The Hymn of Acxiom.

I adore this song on its own, but its even more interesting when you learn that it is about internet marketing. [Nerdy side note, the cover of the album is a heat map of population shifts in the Metro Detroit area, where I live.] Acxiom may sound like a made-up word for the song, but Acxiom is a real company.

Acxiom is an Arkansas-based company that conducts online marketing research for large companies. Acxiom collects data on the customers of its corporate clients, which Acxiom then collates into profiles for each person and sells that research back to the company so that the company can better target their online advertising. Essentially, Acxiom collects data on your online behaviors, compiles them into a massive database and then sells access to that data to retailers.

Tom’s Guide has a great article showing you how Acxiom works and, even more interesting, how you can view the information Acxiom has on you. I decided to go ahead and sign up to see what their profile for me looked like. I had to manually verify my identity by emailing them some basic information and a copy of my latest electricity bill, which was a bit annoying, but I suppose I’d rather they provide some level of protection.

Once I got in, they listed several different categories of data, including Characteristic, Home, Vehicle, Economic, Purchase and Interests.

Acxiom online marketing profile

You can then click on each category to see what their records reflect. Here is my Characteristic Data:

Acxiom marketing Characteristic Data

They’re pretty close, but got a couple things wrong. My birthday, for example, is off by three days. And they still have me as single, though considering that it’s only two months since my wedding, I can understand.

As for the rest of the data, I was shocked at how little they had. Only one category had anything, Economics, which stated that I was an active investor. All the rest looked like this:

Acxiom marketing household data

I have the sneaking suspicion that this lack of data on me is because I almost never fill out any forms online. Per Acxiom:

Acxiom collects non-sensitive data for our online marketing products from three different types of sources:

  • Government records, public records and publicly available data — like data from telephone directories, website directories and postings, property and assessor files, and government issued licenses.
  • Data from surveys and questionnaires you fill out
  • General data from other commercial entities where consumers have been provided notice of how data about them will be used, and offered a choice about whether or not to allow those uses — like demographic data.

Seeing how this data gets put to use when they are able to get a hold of it makes me want to go a little bit more hermit-like and share my data a bit more selectively than I already am. If you want to see what a more fleshed-out profile looks like, I’d check out that post over at Tom’s Guide. Acxiom had a ton on the author of that post.

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