Tru Optik was acquired in Oct. 2020 as part of a multiyear effort by TransUnion to build a suite of identity, addressability and data solutions which recently launched under the brand TruAudience® by TransUnion. Former Tru Optik CEO and Co-Founder, Andre Swanston, joins us to discuss the connected media landscape and how Tru Optik helped TransUnion create a critical view of identity and audiences.
Q. You have an eclectic background that includes owning restaurants and night clubs, as well as financial consulting. How did that inspire the founding of Tru Optik?
A. I owned a few nightclubs and restaurants between 2004 and 2007, and I was investing in local advertising to promote them — especially to Millennials. I noticed over those years the efficacy of my ad budget was shifting almost entirely to newer channels like streaming radio and digital. This was even before the days of connected TV, but I picked up on the fact that this was a larger trend toward IP television and streaming TV.
From my experience at JPMorgan Chase, I knew an idea like this had the teeth to attract venture capital. Plus, I just knew it was what I wanted to do. That was the most important piece of the puzzle because there’s a certain level of craziness a founder has to have to believe in yourself and an idea so much you’re willing to take the risks necessary to make it happen. For me, that meant dropping everything to start Tru Optik.
Q. And seven years later, Tru Optik became part of TransUnion. Would you say timing played an important role in this acquisition?
The last year definitely had one of the biggest impacts in the shortest periods of time for streaming media. There was about a six-week period in 2020 between March and April when we saw the industry evolve 18+ months in terms of the number of households streaming media, the amount of time people spent streaming, and the number of new services coming to market.
For me, that growth was welcome in the sense that Tru Optik was invested in the importance of the household to targeted advertising. We patented our household graph back in 2014, so it felt like the rest of the industry was catching up.
Now, everyone in martech and ad tech is talking about “cookieless.” The focus for so many businesses has shifted dramatically to ad-supported streaming — increasing pressure on providers in the ecosystem to enable more precise identity, targeting and measurement solutions.
Just as Tru Optik was making noise about household-level addressability before it came to fruition, TransUnion has spent years building an identity-enabled solution suite. Tru Optik and our household-level view of identity was critical at a time when TransUnion was looking to make meaningful investments and the industry was finally ready to embrace identity-enabled marketing.
Q. It sounds like identity was a commonality between both companies. How has identity shaped the relationship post acquisition?
Prior to the acquisition, Tru Optik was the first company to develop a patented household graph capable of connecting devices to the household, as well as being able to append first- and third-party data for the use of targeting ads to those households.
Since the acquisition, we’ve retired the Tru Optik brand name and our joint team is catering to the media and entertainment vertical with our TruAudience® suite of marketing solutions which launched in September. It leverages TransUnion’s history of data stewardship and an accurate, people-based view of identity data.
When we talk about being a leader in identity, we’re not referring to building upon a legacy, cookie-based solution. With TruAudience, we’ve taken an ability to understand a three-dimensional view of identity that covers people, homes and devices. TruAudience can be applied to identity resolution, targeting and measurement applications to power more effective advertising across addressable media like connected TV, digital, streaming audio, even direct mail and more.
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