Recently two marketing research companies announced they were combining in a joint venture. Gfk’s MRI and SymphonyAI’s Simmons have been direct competitors for 40+ years and are now combining as MRI-Simmons with the promise of improving their innovations, especially in the area of digital research. While I usually am favorable to competition this looks like a case where two providers just does not make sense any longer for the industry. Each company previously had a limited pool of clients to sell to—with only a few companies subscribing to both—and their ability to invest for innovation or add to their existing product was harmed by their lack of upside growth.
Back in 1997 I spoke at an ARF conference and suggested expansion beyond single source studies and possibly adding specific category studies. I suggested the bridal market, the baby market and the health market. Today the first two no longer make sense as very little ad supported content lives offline and so much content demand is online along with the data we use to transact those ads supersedes some of the consumer insight data we historically relied on from MRI and Simmons. Kantar launched a health study called MARS years ago (I’d like to think I had something to do with it) that is still widely used. But I’m sure there are categories or deeper knowledge that can be gathered by the combined entity. Their press release here suggests that digital research will be their focus. Of course, this all begs the question: Now what? Does the JV lead to a complete merger/acquisition or sale to another entity? Does it lead to more acquisitions? We know WPP would like to offload Kantar. Let’s keep an eye on this.
We hope that one research supplier can operate more effectively and enhance their offering to an industry in need of some revitalization in marrying offline and online media/marketing research and consumer profiling.