On May 14, Acxiom announced its intention to acquire LiveRamp, a "data onboarding service," to the tune of $310 million in cash. Several Forrester analysts (Fatemeh Khatibloo, Tina Moffett, Sri Sridharan, and I) cover these two firms, and what follows is our collective thinking on the impending acquisition after having been briefed by Acxiom's leadership on the matter.
The acquisition sets Acxiom up to displace traditional MSPs. LiveRamp has built integration relationships with four of the biggest managed service providers (MSPs): Epsilon, Equifax, Experian, and Merkle. Acxiom is claiming agnosticism, and it has told us that it is "open to many ways of proving neutrality, including contractual commitments, [and] third-party audits." The firm considers the acquisition "an evolution of Acxiom’s Audience Operating System (AOS), which was launched to connect the ecosystem of marketers, technology, and media more tightly together and make every part of that ecosystem work better." But when we project out a few years, we have a hard time seeing how marketers will justify a standalone customer relationship management (CRM) database when they could, for example, port their POS and order management system (OMS) data directly into AOS and use that as their "customer marketing platform-as-a-service."