For the past couple of years, we have been experiencing a significant change in the way IT budgets are being developed.  Gartner’s prediction is that by 2017 CMO’s will spend more on IT than CIO’s. In addition, digital marketing is the No. 1-ranked CEO priority for technology-enabled business capability over the next five years [i].

It is my opinion, that with increasing amount of investments in marketing, the old phrase that “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half” becomes even more of a problem. The paradox however is that while marketing has never been so easy to track – the rise of digital and analytics means we can track the effect almost instantly – at the same time I believe it has never been so hard to measure.

Consumers use multiple channels to research and purchase products, and marketers are generally unable to create a clear picture across all offline and online channels. 90% of retail sales are as an example still completed offline, but consumers do a lot of research online.

This is why I consider Audience Onboarding to be so important – because it makes it possible to identify and connect with customers across all channels.

Why is Audience Onboarding important?

Audience onboarding essentially connects offline and online data. It is done by matching an offline data base to a digital platform. The match can be made on attributes such as name and address, email, phone number, mobile device id, and/or cookie. The objective is to connect an offline customer/prospect to a connected online device, at an individual level. 

There are typically three steps involved:
1) Import and anonymise offline customer/prospects data
2) Match those records to connected devices, browsers and digital IDs
3) Target those who matched with customised offers or messages on advertising platforms such as social media, or publisher websites

Importantly many Audience Onboarding platforms also allow for uploading and matching of offline customer profiles and transactions. This makes it possible to compare online behavior across devices with offline purchases, and measure the impact of digital marketing on offline sales.

In fact a large benefit of Audience Onboarding is that it is perhaps the only way to correctly measure the impact of digital campaign on sales – also called attribution modeling.

It also opens major opportunities up for direct marketers. Since Audience Onboarding ties customer or prospect files to online users, a wealth of actual customer information can be taken into account when targeting. 

As Audience Onboarding target users online on an individual basis, ads are only shown to specified individuals and not open to all browsers who happen to meet generic criteria.

The main benefits of Audience Onboarding are therefore:

  • You can upload and target offline users, online
  • You can upload transactions to measure results to digital campaigns, and conduct correct attribution analysis to determine what media mix that is optimal
  • Finally it eliminates many of the disadvantages of pure cookie based tracking

Examples of Audience Onboarding platforms


One of the most popular examples of digital advertising platforms that allow for Audience Onboarding is Facebook, where a company/advertiser can upload a prospect or customer file to an onboarding platform that will match the individuals on the customer file to these people’s profiles. The advertiser will then be able to serve ads on Facebook to only those specific people.

Facebook has taken Audience Onboarding one step further by creating “Partner Categories” 

Partner Categories include data from trusted data partners. The data from these partners allows an advertiser to target people based on certain attributes like their estimated income, family status, property type, as well as offline attributes like purchasing a new car.

In Australia Facebook has partnered with Acxiom, Experian, and Quantium as third-party data providers[i]. Advertisers will for example be able to target based on anonymised, offline shopping data gleaned through Quantium’s  Woolworths loyalty data, or anonymised transactional data.

It is worth noting that for privacy reasons all data will all be “hashed” to remove identities and no personal information will be shared.

As this Facebook example shows – suddenly Audience Onboarding is not just about targeting a known customer online. It has become about targeting people online, based on quite specific offline profiles.

Data Management Platforms and LiveRamp

DMPs are essentially large databases that are used to capture information in regards to what websites and digital content anonymous users  (cookies, devices) have viewed.  A DMP can collect data via Onboarding (uploading of offline data), online tags, or APIs.

Agencies, publishers and marketers all use DMPs.  Agencies use the technology to collect and analyze the data collected from their client campaigns.

Meanwhile, a growing number of publishers  also making use of the technology as a way to help them better understand their readers, and sell advertising space at a higher price as a result.

Importantly, DMPs are not simply a tool for advertisers. More and more companies acquire their own DMP platforms in order to merge online and offline data.

Vendors that sell DMP technology currently include Adobe, Krux, Oracle BlueKai,  X+1 and others.

Liveramp is arguable the largest and most diverse Audience Onboarding platform, with more than 5 billion records onboarded per month. This platform dominates the market in the US.

The main advantage of this platform is that it integrates with more than 130 marketing platforms, and hence is able to match customer’s data, to this large group of partners, and then distribute the matched prospects for advertising across a broad range of media platforms and marketing applications – such as Publisher sites, Online video and streaming, addressable TV,  DMPs ,  etc.

Capgemini Digital Capabilities

Increasingly companies will want to integrate digital data, with their offline database to enrich their customer view. Telco’s and Media companies want to analyse mobile and streaming data, and banks and insurance companies will want to enrich databases with web browsing data.

As technology agnostic professional services consultants, Capgemini are able to act as a focal integration partner. Capgemini has the required expertise across big data, analytics, data matching, and digital integration to provide clients with a strategic roadmap for how to actually implement an infrastructure that supports best practice digital data integration.

Customers expect consistent messages across all channels, and the digital data is too valuable not to be fully utilized. The technology that is now available makes it possible to tackle these challenges. 

[i] Gartner’s 2014 CEO Survey

[i] Facebook Partner network went live in Australia, August 3rd 2015