"This is a very significant milestone for us," said Steven Fredericks, president and CEO of TNS MI. "It's our first acquisition moving beyond the aggregation of data into the analysis of data in a very direct way."
The move, said Fredericks, is in response to the shift of marketing from an analog to a digital platform, growing consumer control and influence, and the blurring lines between different forms of media--including that generated by consumers. Clients are clamoring for a way to evaluate it all for ROI and to get actionable insights in a very rapid manner. TNS is already tracking ad spending for 24 million brands and adding 300 brands daily, he said.
"People are overwhelmed with data," Fredericks said. The goal is "to get to the point where we can now start to view the data, analyze the data and interpret it so clients can act on it in a very short period of time."
The deal also gives TNS its first means for online competitive intelligence, and marks another instance where TNS is competing head-on with Nielsen and its Nielsen BuzzMetrics unit.
"We've been looking at the space for quite a while" apart from the involvement of Nielsen, said Fredericks. "A year ago is when it really started to make commercial sense" to move into it. The decision to buy, rather than build, was purely pragmatic. TNS would have "missed the market" if it waited the two to three years it would take to build a solution, he said.
A Forrester Report on brand monitoring issued last September ranked Nielsen BuzzMetrics and Cymfony as the category leaders and recommended Cymfony as the best acquisition fit for a marketing information company to compete effectively with Nielsen.
"It's signaling a fundamental shift in the way marketing is done," said Cymfony CEO Andrew Bernstein of the deal's significance. "The consumer has gained a tremendous amount of power."
Cymfony was founded in 1996 and has been performing text mining for government intelligence, as well as the marketing, research and public relations communities.
"We are now connecting the dots between all media," Bernstein said. "As marketers increase their activities in the emerging social media channel, they will have an integrated partner to turn to for guidance and insight analyzed within the context of the entire marketing landscape with TNS MI."
As an example, Fredericks suggested, the entertainment industry could better fine-tune its marketing strategy and spending for new film releases by monitoring the online buzz earlier in the development cycle, perhaps as soon as a project is green-lit. TNS will now be able to provide pre-release research, and then follow up with post-release analysis. Did the box office, in fact, live up to what people were saying about a film online?
According to Compete, two-thirds of online consumers visit social networking sites, and have increased their use of these sites by 414% in the past three years.
Cymfony staff will join the TNS MI organization and remain at their present location outside Boston. The unit will be known as TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony. Bernstein will continue to direct the unit under the deal, whose terms were not disclosed.
New ROI models and syndicated services by vertical industry sector are likely new products of the new unit.
"As Cymfony is a recognized market leader in the U.S., this acquisition will not only benefit our Media Intelligence clients internationally, but also has the potential to be used in other TNS business units across our network," said Jean-Michel Portier, president and CEO of TNS Media Intelligence worldwide.