You may think that Publishers Clearing House (PCH) is just the company that takes a big sweepstakes check to some lucky person’s door.
But, in fact, PCH is a massive archive of first-party data — the best kind because it can track logged-in users by name.
Today, PCH is announcing that its ad tech platform Liquid has bought CRM provider CommandIQ so that this treasury of first-party data can breed a new kind of highly accurate, cross-device customer relationship management (CRM).
While the deal terms remain confidential, the ambition of the combined entity — also called Liquid — isn’t.
The central idea: enable client companies to either use their customer data by itself for targeted marketing campaigns, or give it a double-whammy by connecting the retailer’s customer data with PCH first-party profiles.
We’re talking a massive number of profiles — more than 100 million. Liquid general manager Steve Bagdasarian told me that PCH has a first-party relationship — that is, it has done business with — about 70 percent of all U.S. households. It’s “a big ecommerce and social gaming company,” he noted.
“Most people think of sweepstakes and magazines when they think of Publishers Clearing House,” PCH says on its website, “but we offer thousands of products and now we’re getting them online.”
The products range from kitchen knife sets to Valerie Bertinelli “Losing It” weight-loss DVDs. Bagdasarian said that PCH is also one of the top five gaming publishers, with such evergreen hits as Blackjack and Lotto for mobile or desktop.
The Holy Grail of marketing
The combination of Liquid/PCH, he predicted, will help bring about a new era in the interaction between CRM, marketing platforms, and targeted advertising.
A retailer might work with Liquid to send targeted emails or ads to the customers in its own CRM, he suggested. But then it can also do “lookalike” matches between its CRM data with PCH’s.
If the retailer’s top customers are, let’s say, mothers with young children in the Midwest, PCH can send targeted emails and ads from that retailer toward those same kind of customers in PCH’s massive database.
CommandIQ’s CRM can accept data from the retailer’s many channels, such as mobile apps, websites, or an existing data warehouse. It can also add marketing automation logic, so that, for instance, the system waits two weeks to send a targeted ad if that user doesn’t respond to an initial email promotion.
However, CommandIQ currently isn’t integrated into other CRMs, so data from a retailer’s existing CRM will need to be exported and imported.
But the key juiciness here for marketers is that both the retailer and PCH would be working largely with first-party data — people who are or have been customers, who are targeted when they log in.
Whether or not it leads to a new era in CRM/marketing/adtech, it could lead to a new era in the Holy Grail of cross-device tracking.
No probabilistic sweepstakes
PCH/Liquid/retailer can use what’s called deterministic targeting to track the same user across a smartphone in the morning, a desktop during the day, and a tablet at night. Deterministic targeting can be highly accurate in tracking the same person across devices, if the user is logged-in at each step.
Usually, cross-device tracking employs probabilistic targeting, as in probability, because the marketers don’t have logged-in, identified users. Instead, they have anonymous users identified only by behavior, IP addresses, and various kinds of circumstantial evidence. It makes inferences that this is the same person across devices, because there are regular patterns of the same devices being used in the same locations at similar times.
Cross-device tracking companies like Drawbridge or Tapad using probabilistic cross-device tracking claim they have high accuracy. But critics point out that, for instance, multiple family members can be in the same location and share the same devices.
In other words, when it comes to identifying users across devices, the newly enlarged Liquid/PCH is not taking a chance on a probabilistic sweepstakes. Instead, given its huge store of first-party customer data augmented by client companies’ own first-party data, it may now qualify for the title of King of the Determinists.
The new Liquid will remain in its current offices in New York City and Portland, Maine. Only former CommandIQ CEO Noah Jessop will join Liquid, as its head of data, and Liquid will create a new business operations team in CommandIQ’s San Francisco location.