ABR 2011: Acxiom Corp.

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Tim Suther & Shawn Donovan
Tim Suther & Shawn Donovan

: Tim Suther, CMO and SVP (L); Shawn Donovan, EVP and chief sales officer (R), John Adams, COO

: Public

: 60 wholly owned globally; 31 in US

: Global: $784.7 million;
US:$623 million

Acxiom Corp. is a giant in the marketing services industry, standing at more than $1 billion in global revenues and serving top-tier clients across the automotive, travel, entertainment, healthcare and technology industries. Global revenues related to agency functions stand at $784.7 million.

Yet, the Little Rock, Ark., firm is an organization with its leadership in flux. In March, CEO John Meyer left the company, as well as CFO Christopher Wolf, and its stock price tumbled by about one-quarter that day, though it later recovered. In announcing Meyer's departure, the company thanked him for his service, but also noted the "expanded importance of digital" on future growth. A month later, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of Acxiom's stockholders, alleging the company, including Meyer and Wolf, had failed to disclose facts about company earnings.


Acxiom's marketing services capabilities include creative, digital, search, mobile and social media, although the bulk of its client work remains in database services and consulting.

CMO and SVP Tim Suther notes that Acxiom's strength is improving creative, "but if you're counting on an agency to have the big idea, we're not going to come up with 'Great taste; less filling,'" he says.

Last year it expanded into South America by acquiring a controlling interest in Brazilian marketing company GoDigital, and planted a flag in Asia through a joint venture with China Post. 


Top clients include Chrysler, Toyota Motor Sales, Marriott, Ford, E-Trade and Hilton Grand Vacations. Last year, it won business from Sallie Mae, Sony Ericsson and Dress Barn. Major 2010 account losses include Countrywide, Dell and Clearwire. Acxiom cited email campaigns for Comcast Interactive Media, FedEx, Sprint Nextel, Sephora and Rodale as some of its top creative work of 2010. 


Shawn Donovan, chief sales officer and EVP at Acxiom, says clients are unlikely to be impacted by the recent senior personnel changes. "Between Tim, myself, and [COO and EVP] John Adams, we ran the majority of the business anyway, and our clients and our associates don't see any grand changes," he says.

CMO Michael Darviche also left the company in 2010, but was quickly replaced by company veteran Suther. Axciom has 460 employees in the US working on or supporting agency services.


Acxiom's US revenues, which make up the bulk of its business, declined 2% to $623 million. Its headcount declined in tandem at 2%. Global revenues nosed higher by less thank 1%. By the conclusion of its fiscal year 2011, which ended March 31, companywide revenues had rebounded 5% to $1.16 billion.

"Businesses cut back on their marketing and advertising, and that affected us two-plus years ago, but we see full signs of marketing and marketing services coming back," says Suther. US regions are seeing growth, as is mobile and direct mail in China and data in the UK.

In regards to the lawsuits, the company has said it will defend itself and that it has not done anything "improper." "We feel comfortable that we did everything according to the book," adds Suther.


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