NinthDecimal Decouples Its Data, Expands Partnerships, and Moves Into the Black

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Audience intelligence and mobile programmatic platform NinthDecimal says its data and measurements divisions took off in 2016, making good on an anticipated industry shift. This spurt of new data partnerships, along with continuing business, led to today’s announcement of profitability for the company — at a time when NinthDecimal says a number of its peers are still struggling to make money.

NinthDecimal’s location data-driven marketing platform is used by brands to better understand where and what consumers are up to and what they take interest in. Michael Fordyce, the company’s CEO, says the platform sorts out what people are doing in the real world, not just the digital sphere. While this is the same illusive golden nugget of consumer intelligence that many rival providers try to capture and digest into actionable information for brands, he believes NinthDecimal has found an approach that is helping it scale up.

Fordyce and chief revenue officer, Brian Slitt, who ran the company’s data measurement group last year, spoke with Street Fight recently about NinthDecimal’s expanding data partner ecosystem — which doubled to more than 200 partners last year — and the need to measure and understand audiences across a myriad of media and channels.

What drove the influx of partnerships that came your company’s way in 2016?
Fordyce: We positioned ourselves as an omnichannel marketing platform powered by location data. That data can be used for a host of applications — from targeting a specific audience, measurement insights, to data licensing. All of that is based on past location history that we get from our 150 million users a month and 75,000 mobile app publishers. Where you go in the real world is the best indicator of who you are. Location is that real-world “cookie.” We made a conscious effort two years ago to decouple our data and our media. We knew programmatic was going to take off — we didn’t know when it was going to take off, but at some point it was going to skyrocket. We knew that having a managed service media business would not the future.

We started taking those audience segments, for example the “Mom segment,” you can buy that as a managed service media offering. We also took that Mom segment and started distributing it to the DSPs (demand-side platforms) and the DMPs (data management platforms). We expanded those in 2016 across 200 different partners from MediaMath to Turn to Facebook to Google, where marketers can now buy that data.

One of the people we brought in to do that is [Chief Revenue Officer] Brian Slitt.

So if you’re a marketer, you can buy our data as a managed service and you can buy it programmatically.

The other piece of the business is measurement. We decoupled our measurement business so now you can buy it as a standalone product. We measure publishers for desktop and mobile, but we’re also now measuring for TV, at home, and in print. One of our unique capabilities is matching devices to households. We were awarded a patent in 2016 around that.

When you know where a device lives, you can match that up with other datasets. TV data, for example. Acxiom’s data, who we just launched a partnership with. Now you can provide the methodology for foot traffic and measurement. You can now measure the effectiveness of TV, at home, print, and mobile becomes the glue that connects all media.

Slitt: With the decoupling and portability of the data, the audience is derived on past location data. A lot of marketers talk about geofencing at an exact moment in time. This is different. This is based on the past locations that you have been. On the partners we’re distributing to, it’s not just mobile app partners. It’s not just that there was a device ID previously at a store, and that could be a past shopper at a retailer, and activating that on mobile app campaigns. It’s more ubiquitous, from mobile app, mobile Web, desktop, video, social, and TV.

NinthDecimal CEO Michael Fordyce

Can you break down the needs of your clients and what they are looking for in terms of data? How does this differ by industry and market segment?
Fordyce: Our belief is if you’re a single-point solution, — like if you’re a media provider and that is all you do — you’re going to be dead in the water. Facebook is going to eat your lunch. Four years ago, when we were thinking about the vision of this company, it was always to be a data and measurement company. That’s now taken full effect.

Slitt: If you think about a couple of verticals — CPG (consumer packed gods) marketers want to target people based on past purchased data. If you think about companies like Nielsen Catalina Solutions, that’s a massive value they have. How do you add to that and understand where else do consumers go? What are the grocery stores they go to? The fact that they buy Mac & Cheese is great, but are they moms? So you start combining past purchase data with location data. That’s a big value for CPG marketers.

With shopper marketing, they really want to understand the impact on the people that see their ads and go to the grocery stores. That’s the value of foot traffic measurement. They also want to combine with sales. We do sales measurement with our partners. You’re not talking about a single point solution, but combining NinthDecimal data and our measurement with partners.

On the retail side, a lot of companies want to leverage their own first-party data and their own CRM (customer relationship management) data. If I’m a big box retailer, I know all about my customers that have signed up for my products. They have that CRM data, but there is a blind spot there. They have no idea where else those people go. They have no idea if they are going to competitors’ stores. They have no idea where they went before or after. In a retail world, a lot of those marketers combine their CRM with additional NinthDecimal location data.

A lot of them want to tie back foot traffic, see where else people are going, and close the loop with their own transaction data.

Fordyce: If you look at Simon Malls, a close partner of ours, they are mainly using us as a provider to measure digital and TV. We help them meet the needs of helping them solve attribution issues they never saw before.

When we launched our data programmatically, we started reaching a whole new set of advertisers ranging from smaller advertisers like a ski resort, which started buying our data from the trade desk, to large big box retailers across the different verticals.

What is behind the momentum you are seeing now? Was it a matter of brands and marketers coming to a realization about location data and how to tie it together with other data sets?
Fordyce: It’s a culmination of a few things. In 2015, that was when we started decoupling our data, media, and measurement. We started slowly to ramp up. As we brought on a larger team, there was more exposure to other offerings and increased ability to buy our data. We went from 13 different implementations to buy our data to more than 200 places. On the measurement side, we kept expanding relationships with agencies, and customers such as Simon. We became an addressable match partner with Acxiom, which brought in new capabilities around CRM matching with customers. Being able to target specific segments of customers within their database.

Slitt: We’ve always had a ton of strategic partnerships, but it’s about growing them more horizontally. Think about TiVo, ComScore, Acxiom, Experian, and Nielsen Catalina Solutions — we’ve been ahead of the market in these partnerships but it’s been about doing more with them.

Joao-Pierre Ruth is a Street Fight contributor.