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With 500 million active users and about 1,500 data points per person, Acxiom is a company that is, even according to its CEO Chad Engelgau, “still relatively unknown to the general population.” Indeed, the company works with some of the largest brands and publishers, fueling their marketing efforts by processing upward of 50 million data transactions per year.
Acxiom is an Arkansas-based marketing firm. They collect, analyze and sell customer information to businesses to create better and more targeted advertising.
But Engelgau wanted more. He understood the future was data and identity and saw marketing, and the world of competitive differentiation among brands, as a means to expand his wealth of knowledge. Chad Enegelgau is the fifth CEO of Acxiom since 2006.
“Because marketing technology (martech) and advertising technology (adtech) have evolved so quickly, Acxiom has had to pivot our business to keep up with the rapid pace of change our industry has experienced. We have brought up new products lines like Digital Identity, Email Marketing, Creative Services, and industry specific data offerings and expanded in various countries around the world. We have also deprecated some products lines and divested from specific countries and portions of our business to create greater focus.”
Tech is a field defined by its ebb and flow. Data refineries like Acxiom have replicated this on a smaller scale. But “in some ways, the more things change, the more they stay the same,” says Engelgau.
“As always, our focus is on making sure our clients get the maximum value of everything we do for them. We have a 95% renewal rate on our client base and now more than ever, our clients are looking for us to tie together their marketing investments into their digital experiences and media investments. Marketing best practices still create the best outcomes for brands, and we continue to support those fundamentals and the solutions that enable them.”
As CEO, Engelgau has an agenda of his own. “Over the last nine months, I have focused on getting Acxiom back to our product roots and invest in areas where our clients want us to be focused. Innovation and meeting our clients’ needs, while producing greater value from the things they’ve already invested in, creates a winning combination. I am also focused on creating greater market awareness of our offerings and measuring the impact of our own marketing to ensure we consistently grow and acquire new clients.” He finishes with a quote from a fellow tech CEO: “As Elon Musk recently shared, innovation and critical feedback is paramount for business success.”
Often overlooked about the companies is their roots. Acxiom’s is a stock story—began in 1969 in Conway, Arkansas, the company was first erected as a data analytics firm helping the Democratic Party increase its reach. Now, the company works with 47 of the Fortune 100 companies.
Similarly, Engelgau is grounded by his roots.
“I am grateful for the strong foundation my parents, neighbors and teachers gave me as I grew up in Urbana, home of the University of Illinois. The passion for education and the arts, living in an integrated community and being exposed to and being friends with a diverse group of people made it an amazing place to springboard my adult life.”
The business world also has its fair share of teachings.
“In the business world, being part of the technology boom over the last 25 years has allowed me to have access to many amazing executives across major companies and multiple startups… Working across the globe for over 20 years now has also allowed me to learn from other cultures and leaders that have given me a much broader perspective. All of these experiences and relationships have truly broadened my perspective on business and life.”
For all of Axciom’s boons as a company—most recently creating algorithms to analyze consumer data online, offline and on mobile selves—Engelgau still eschewed corporate, stating “I really wanted to work for a startup and even applied at a number of them across my career.”
But the past is not for dwelling, Engelgau believes. “My favorite motto is “Carpe Diem”; seize the day. Each of us has a journey, and each day we get to focus on our present and begin writing our future chapters. We should always learn from the past, but there is no time to dwell there.
Perhaps, he says, “[he’ll] create [his] own business or charity after [he retires] from the corporate world.”
ABOUT THE WRITER
Olivia Baker is a Tech Innovation Fellow at Identity Review from Columbia University, where she writes on tech policy and national digital identity technologies.
Contact Olivia Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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