Founding of Demographics Inc.
Ward founded Demographics Inc. with his brother Stephen Ward in 1969 to meet the needs of the Young Leadership Council for the Democratic Party, of which he was a member, which wanted to create political mailing lists that were competitive with a data processing system set up by Winthrop Rockefeller and the Arkansas Republican Party.
In 1970 the system was used in the successful gubernatorial election campaign of Dale Bumpers. Ward's leadership as Arkansas' Democratic National Committeeman, also helped in the failed draft movement to elect Wilbur D. Mills to the Presidency of the United States in 1972.
At this point it was largely a printing business, as the company occupied a 6,000 square-foot building housing an IBM 370/135 mainframe computer and press (near the present Smitty's Bar-B-Que on Harkrider Avenue. One client was the bus company itself. More than fifty businesses contracted services by 1974. The company soon expanded to cover other data processing needs. In 1975 the company began using its lists in direct mail operations. It entered the payroll processing business and handled billing for the local utility Conway Corp. Its most reliable customer at the time was the Hot Springs, Arkansas, developer Diamondhead.
Revenue by the middle of the 1970s had increased to $1.2 million. The company had over thirty-five full time employees, some still card-carrying UAW members. The board of directors for the company matched the names of board members for the umbrella corporation Ward Industries.
Financial Troubles and Sale of Demographics
Ward found himself in financial difficulty when one of the new plants in his mainline business Ward School Bus Manufacturing failed in 1975. Ward divested himself of Demographics that same year. Charles D. Morgan, a company manager for three years, became the new president and CEO.
The foreclosure of Diamondhead and election law changes conspired to cause the company to reevaluate its business plan. Morgan traveled to yellow pages maker Direct Media Inc. in New York. There he met with David Florence to discuss changes in the operation, and decided to focus exclusively on direct-mail technology. Morgan returned with the kernel of an idea for what became the List Order Fulfillment System (LOFS), with Direct Media as the sole customer. LOFS has been described as the nation's "first fully-automated, on-line system used to generate mailing lists." By 1978 the company touted that it had created the first comprehensive "marketing database" in the United States.
In 1986 Phil Carter joined the company as president. Carter and Morgan began making aggressive acquisitions together.
Demographics, Inc. changed its name to CCX Network [Conway Communications Exchange], Inc. in 1980, became a publicly traded company in 1983, and acquired its current name Acxiom Corporation in 1988. Acxiom today is public corporation headquartered in Little Rock and Conway, Arkansas. Acxiom specializes in data mining, business databases, grid computing, direct marketing technology, and customer relationship management software. It collects information on more than ninety million households. The company competes in the marketplace with Experian Information Solutions, D & B, and Harte-Hanks.
- Barry Beck, "Ward Industries, Inc.: A Historical Study," Faulkner Facts and Fiddlings 16.4 (Winter 1974): 67-83.
- Harold B. Johnson, "A History of Dave Ward and His Company," M.S.E. thesis, Arkansas State Teachers College, 1960.