Q&A: Andrew Frawley, Epsilon president of marketing technology

Andrew Frawley, president of marketing technology at Epsilon, a marketing data and technology services company, discusses the future of database marketing and whether he thinks Congress will intervene on behavioral tracking. In addition to his role at Epsilon, which was named in the “leaders” category in this year’s Forrester Research‘s Wave assessment of US database marketing service providers, Frawley was CEO of ClickTactics, later named ClickSquared, and he served as chairman of the Direct Marketing Association Financial Services Council Conference.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): What are clients looking for in a database service provider?

Andrew Frawley (Epsilon): Clients are asking for systems to support traditional batch campaign management, but they also want systems to function in real time to drive sales. This requires more operational excellence, including high availability systems that can respond to transactions in milliseconds. Marketers have to figure out how to allocate ad-spend dollars. For example, we work with a large retailer where for every point of sale transaction we’ll analyze 300,000 rules. We’ll take data from the interaction and combine it with customer information and in real-time determine what the optimum interaction should be.

DMN: It seems like most database service providers claim their systems gather large volumes of data faster or cleanse data better than other systems. Which skill is more important?

Frawley: They’re both important. The breadth and depth of information is important, but if it’s not clean and you can’t associate it all to a client it won’t be meaningful. You have to make decisions against all this data, but you also have to cleanse and match in real-time. You’ve got to take X number of files, standardize the data, clean the data and link all the data together.

DMN: Do you think Congress will ultimately hurt data collection by instituting privacy laws, or do you think the industry will be able to self-regulate?

Frawley: The big trend right now is understanding more about how people interact online through the social grid. How many Facebook friends does a person have? What were they looking at recently? Marketers find this information interesting because it’s an indicator of intent. This data describes a consumer’s previous relationship with a company. If I search for flights to London online wouldn’t American Airlines like to know that? In some categories this information can be very powerful if you bring it back and link it to other data. Some of it is uncomfortable from a privacy perspective and will be regulated by Congress. We certainly think self-regulation and transparency are the right solutions. What Congress will do I’m not smart enough to answer. But there’s enough activity there that I’m guessing we’ll see some regulation at some point in the near future.

DMN: Several analysts with whom I’ve spoken believe the database industry will expand in the coming years as the responsibilities of CMOs expand. Do you agree with this prediction? Why?  

Frawley: We’re definitely seeing it expanding. Driving the expansion is that databases were traditionally built to directly target or inform targeting for offline activities. But now marketing dollars are flowing online. If you want mobile, e-mail and display you have to have a database infrastructure to manage that. You can’t have different tools for all those things. You need a database controlling and optimizing that information.

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