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Why InfoSum Promises Brands Their Data Doesn’t Move in New Clean Room Platform

This story was originally published in Ad Age.

When InfoSum said to advertisers and publishers that its platform does not “move” their data, it was a hard concept for potential clients to grasp, admits InfoSum CEO Brian Lesser. Clients—the ad agencies, brands and publishers—still had to upload data from their digital data stores into InfoSum; and to some, that seemed like “movement.” Now, that step is being eliminated as one part of an upgrade to InfoSum’s data clean room and collaboration platform.

“We invented the concept of ‘nonmovement’ of data,” Lesser said in a recent phone interview, “and what ‘nonmovement’ means is, if your data is in the InfoSum environment, and you have multiple partners that also have their data in the InfoSum environment, the data is never comingled. It stays in your environment and yet you can still collaborate.”

Rivals had attempted to criticize InfoSum’s claims of “nonmovement” of data, Lesser said. Now, InfoSum removed the need to even upload data as part of the launch of its Platform Sigma, which it announced on Thursday. “You no longer have to do that,” Lesser said, discussing the new capabilities. “The data exists in any database, any data warehouse, and effectively we stream it into the InfoSum platform. So, it doesn’t move out of your database, and certainly, when you’re collaborating with your partners, it doesn’t move amongst those partners.”

The updated platform also has more capabilities for publishers and brands to collaborate using models of their data. InfoSum also has built an application programming interface—API—so more sophisticated brands and publishers could build their own apps that make use of their data in bespoke ways.

Lesser would not say how much the typical client pays to use InfoSum, but cloud and data clean room costs can be expensive, in general, according to ad tech industry experts. “It’s cheaper than using a traditional data on-boarder,” Lesser said. “We charge either based on volume or based on the number of transactions that you use with our platform.”

InfoSum said publishers like Disney and UK-based ITV are testing its next-generation platform, as is Annalect, Omnicom’s data-powered marketing division. “The marketplace used to operate very differently,” said Slavi Samardzija, global CEO of Annalect. “Think about third-party cookies, and that data flowing everywhere, and what negative impact that had on the industry. This is a complete shift to full transparency, full control, talking about partners working together with high-quality data, based on consumer consent, based on a value exchange.”

Rising interest in clean rooms

InfoSum is just one of many participants in the growing data clean room space. Data cloud companies like Snowflake and Habu have also become prominent names in the industry. LiveRamp and Oracle have developed data collaboration technology. This year, major media companies such as DisneyNBCUniversal and Roku announced data clean room services, including teaming up with partners like InfoSum, to grow their connected TV streaming advertising platforms.

Clean rooms are becoming big business, especially since cookies are going away on web browsers, and there are restrictions on identifiers that track consumers online thanks to changes from Apple and Google. InfoSum’s updates are a sign that the data industry is still evolving to keep up with the most intricate protocols for handling sensitive consumer data. Publishers and advertisers have been burned through years of programmatic advertising online, where data they collected on customers and visitors to websites leaked into insecure internet ad markets. Clean rooms are being touted as a way for publishers to securely—and privately—offer advertisers access to data without leakage.

“If you’ve worked very hard to collect data from your valuable customers, and then you want to work with a partner such that you can deliver more relevant advertising or more relevant content and products,” Lesser said, “you can encrypt that data and send it to your partner, but once you send it to your partner you can’t control what happens to it after that. And in a programmatic environment there are many intermediaries that can learn off the back of your customer data.”

That is one of the reasons InfoSum is prioritizing “nonmovement” of data in its platform, and creating environments where advertisers and publishers can use data for studying online audiences, building segments of consumers to target ads, and measure the performance of those ads, replacing traditional programmatic infrastructure.

The data clean room space is still nascent, and not all brands and publishers are even good candidates to take advantage of these data platforms. Consumer packaged goods brands, for instance, mostly sell through retailers and often do not collect rich first-party data on consumers, which would limit the utility of a data clean room. However, clean rooms could become useful tools as more retailers develop their own retail media networks and start sharing data with brands to facilitate ad campaigns.

“Historically retailers were very hesitant to share data with the brands,” Samardzija said. “But now for measurement purposes or activation purposes, and with their retail media networks, as they’re building those, this technology enables …

to bring their ecosystem partners to this data collaboration platform.”