With the announcement today of a global rebrand, and the introduction of the Tapad Customer Data Platform, the New York-based vendor now owned by Norwegian telco giant Telenor, Tapad has undergone a major mission shift.
Tapad has long been familiar to DMN readers, first as an ad tech platform, then more broadly as a distribution platform for a broader range of content, and especially as a leader in cross-device tracking, collating consumer identities across the wide variety of devices and channels today’s consumers naturally use.
Stitching the digital eco-system back together
Tapad initially set out to solve for a challenge well-described to me by CEO Sigvart Voss Eriksen: “When (as marketers) we embarked on the digital transformation journey, what became apparent very quickly is that what we thought we thought we’d be able to do — really granular personalized marketing — was difficult because of disparate data sets, and a very broken eco-system with different platforms and no identity layer which could stitch it all together.”
That’s what the Tapad Device Graph — now to be known simply as the Tapad Graph — set out to do, linking anonymized consumer identities across devices, based on billions of data points.
In acquiring Tapad, Telenor set itself the objective of using the Tapad identity solution as “a core to be able to activate data across the eco-system, and marry it with the very strong set of data a telco typically has.” In other words, Tapad’s technology allowed extensive third party data to be appended, with some confidence, to Telenor’s CRM.
“The CDP offering launched publicly today is essentially that story. We have been developing, together with Telenor as an owner and a customer, the solution to the problem I described,” said Eriksen. “We are live today in six business units across Scandinavia and APAC, and we’ve been able to drive some impressive results, reducing CPA on an average range of 30%, up to a max of 84%. ROI on campaigns in one of the Scandinavian operations has been seven times what was seen on comparable campaigns earlier.”
Beyond the telcos
The existing offering is a CDP purpose-built for telcos. Will it be valuable to other verticals? “I believe so,” Eriksen said. “There are many verticals with similar problems; having a rich amount of CRM data but facing the challenge of activating that in a good and privacy-safe way.”
It’s certainly unusual to find a CDP built on something like the Tapad identity layer. “It helps to bring a holistic view of the whole market. When you marry that with your CRM data, you can do very advanced lookalike modeling, profiling and segmentation,” Eriksen explained. “The other powerful thing is that, since we host all the data, we are able to close the loop [on customer behavior] and continuously update the algorithms, and improve performance with a consistent ID as the core.”
Where a traditional CDP is naturally focused on customer data — hence the name — or reader data, for publishers — the integration of the identity layer does seem to create an opportunity to find new audiences? “One of the key challenges for a telco is that you ‘see through your own keyhole,’ have a very good view of your own customer base, but are virtually blind beyond that.” Telenor has already experimented with using the lookalike capabilities to “create highly targeted and personalized campaigns towards competitors’ high revenue customers on particular devices.” Conversion rates, said Eriksen, “went through the roof.”
The whole GDPR deal
With a European owner, it was crystal clear to Tapad that these strategies needed to be compliant with GDPR (read more about the U.S. implications here). “The CRM data is onboarded to us, but we don’t get the PII [personally identifying data], so that we don’t see the individual; we see it as just a number or an ID. If the client wants to activate on their own properties, they are able to convert that number back into their own CRM data. We never see that.” As regular DMN readers will know, that means that Tapad is not handling “personal data” as defined in GDPR at all.
“Having an owner with an HQ in Europe, it’s absolutely impossible for us to operate without being compliant.”
The shift at Tapad
I wondered whether the rebranding and product launch represented a sudden shift in Tapad’s mission, or simply organic growth. “If you look back at where Tapad came from,” said Eriksen, “yes, in one and a half years or so we’ve gone through a pretty big transition. But if you look at it from a solution perspective; at the core of it is the cross device solution, but as we have evolved that we see that connecting the devices is just one attribute. There are also behavioral attributes we can stitch into the graph. Then, working with Telenor, being able to stitch together first party data with the graph is the natural next step to build this out.”
With the initial launch aimed exclusively at telcos (some of whom maybe want to get some of that Telenor business back), other verticals will have to wait and ponder. Ponder, especially, what Tapad’s move represents for the CDP of the future.