The consumer data marketing company Acxiom began in Conway (Faulkner County) in the late 1960s as Demographics, Inc. In the twenty-first century, Acxiom has become a major national and international enterprise that collects, analyzes, and markets customer and business information for use in targeted advertising.
Charles Ward founded the company in 1969 to develop a mailing list to be used by the Democratic Party in its campaign efforts. At first, the company processed data for only a small number of clients, including what became IC Corporation, a large bus-manufacturing company located in Conway. It significantly expanded its reach in subsequent years. In 1978, Ward sold the company to a member of the management, Charles D. Morgan, who became president and CEO. The company began to grow, taking on the processing of many Conway businesses’ payrolls and billing while continuing to process data for the Democratic Party. The company soon began to pursue nationwide direct-mail marketing, using new computer technology to manage information. In 1979, the company became Conway Communications Exchange, Inc., then CCX Network, Inc., in 1982, making its first public stock offering. In 1986, CCX acquired Southwark Computer Services, Ltd., in the United Kingdom. The company became Acxiom that same year.
By 1988, Acxiom had tripled its workforce and added several locations in addition to Conway. During this time, the company was marketing itself to corporate clients who wanted to outsource their database management. By 1991, however, the company was struggling, cutting down its workforce and reducing its operations.
In the mid-to-late 1990s, Acxiom began growing again, acquiring some long-term corporate contracts, buying other marketing data companies (including competitor May & Speh Inc., based in Illinois), and expanding its operations. Around this same time, Acxiom began exploring new means of data processing and management, investigating the use of CD-ROMs and the Internet (entering into an agreement with Oracle to expand its analytical processing power).
By 2012, Acxiom had a database containing information on about 190 million Americans and 126 million U.S. households and was working with forty-seven of the Fortune 100 companies. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Acxiom provided the U.S. government with information about several of the nineteen hijackers.
New data-gathering technologies raised concerns, however, most having to do consumer privacy. As corporations began to use more-aggressive strategies and marketing techniques based on personal data (gathered by companies like Acxiom), the public began worrying about what their information—including their race/ethnicity, religion, and choices such as tobacco use or gambling—was being used for. Another concern was the way ranking systems based on data have been shown leave some people out of receiving various types of information, including deals and discounts but also marketing of higher education or health-related services.
Despite some bad press for the company with regard to the public’s privacy, Acxiom for the most part continued to grow, constructing a $25 million complex in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 2002, as well as other building projects. However, in March 2017, the company announced that it had sold its River Market facility to Simmons First National Bank and was moving its corporate headquarters from downtown Little Rock back to Conway. “As Acxiom has expanded its locations and service offerings to meet the needs of clients around the world, we have made it a priority to provide our associates with modern workspaces that foster engagement, collaboration and teamwork,” Acxiom CEO Scott Howe said in a statement. “This relocation will provide all central Arkansas associates with a more collaborative environment to work together and meet the needs of our global client base.” The company said that all of its Little Rock–based employees would stay with the company, with some working from home, a few staying in Little Rock, and most commuting to the Conway campus, bringing the number at the Conway headquarters to about 1,500.
In February 2018, Acxiom Corporation announced that it was reorganizing into two divisions: Acxiom Marketing Solutions (AMS) and LiveRamp. Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG) announced the purchase of the AMS business. Acxiom Corporation then officially changed its name to LiveRamp, with the AMS business owned by IPG keeping the Acxiom name.
Acxiom has frequently been recognized for the culture it provides for its employees, being named by Fortune magazine numerous times over the years as one of the best places to work in America, as well as being designated by Computerworld magazine as one of the 100 best information technology companies to work for.
For additional information:
Acxiom. https://www.acxiom.com/ (accessed September 1, 2022).
Morgan, Charles D. Matters of Life and Data: The Remarkable Journey of a Big Data Visionary Whose Work Impacted Millions (Including You). New York: Morgan James Publishing, 2015.
Singer, Natasha. “You for Sale: Mapping, and Sharing, the Consumer Genome.” New York Times, June 17, 2012, BU1. Online at https://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/technology/acxiom-the-quiet-giant-of-consumer-database-marketing.html (accessed September 1, 2022).
Tynan, Dan. “Acxiom Exposed: A Peek Inside One of the World’s Largest Data Brokers.” Computerworld, May 15, 2013. https://www.computerworld.com/article/2710610/acxiom-exposed–a-peek-inside-one-of-the-world-s-largest-data-brokers.html (accessed September 1, 2022).
University of Arkansas Sam M. Walton College of Business—Enterprise Systems: Acxiom. https://walton.uark.edu/enterprise/acxiomhome.php (accessed September 1, 2022).
CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Last Updated: 09/15/2022