Is measurement industry consolidation good for customers?

6 Sep

I’m sure many of you have followed the spate of consolidation that is sweeping our industry.  Echo Research (research firm) has acquired KWHR Network (measurement firm), which had a global reseller agreement with PRNewsWire (wire/distribution service).  Bacon’s (content aggregator) bought Delhaye (measurement firm) and rebranded as Cision (silly name from expensive branding process/firm).  TNS Media Intelligence (advertising services) bought Cymfony (measurement firm) and cleverly renamed it TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony (doubt this gem came from expensive branding firm).

While one would hope these transactions have unlocked hidden value for their respective shareholders, it is not clear (yet) how the new organizations will better serve their customers.  Here is one personal example of how consolidation is acting against customer needs.  At MWW Group we have a proprietary measurement platform called Upshot.  For one client we set up a measurement system on Upshot with an XML feed from Bacon’s.  After a period of time we elected to migrate the system to Cymfony.  For consistency we decided to set up the system with a primary feed from Bacon’s.  We were informed by Cymfony that we could not use a Bacon’s feed because Bacon’s, er Cision,  refused to work with Cymfony because it competes with their measurement play, Delahaye.  So, Bacon’s lost a customer in this case.  It seemed misguided and petty to me at the time.  It still does.

Had a different experience?  Is industry consolidation working for or against you?   

4 Responses to “Is measurement industry consolidation good for customers?”

  1. Katie Paine September 14, 2007 at 10:33 am #

    I totally agree Don. We had the same experience with Bacons, so we use Burrelles. Having gone through a merger myself, I know consolidation happens to make shareholders happy. The clients are seldom better served by the consolidation. For at least a year, the people that work on their accounts are distracted by “integration” issues. The cross selling and up selling that everyone hopes for seldom occurs or at best takes years. At Delahaye we were consistently ahead of everyone in terms of technology. With the merger, our R&D work got sidelined by committees and endless discussions, so when KDPaine & Partners launched we were easily able to leapfrog the leader in the industry. I talked to an old Delahaye client who said they had to leave because the technology was so antiquated. And even with the help of Bacons, Cision is far behind the likes of Cymfony, BuzzMetrics, BuzzLogic, (and yes KDPaine & Partners) in terms of technology.

  2. Don Bartholomew September 14, 2007 at 8:02 pm #

    Katie,

    You make a very good point about the hidden negatives (and costs!) of consolidation – loss of good people, turf wars, political posturing or bickering, lack of focus, inward thinking, etc. I actually worked for one company where the integration plans were very well thought out and executed. A team comprised of representatives from both companies worked behind the scenes for almost six months before the merger was announced to all employees. A lot of work, but the payoff was noticeable. Cheers, DB

  3. Mark Weiner October 17, 2007 at 11:55 pm #

    Don,

    This is an interesting position and I’ve been both the acquirer and the acquisition. In that context, let me suggest that consolidation can be either good or bad for the companies, the staffs and individuals …and the customer can certainly emerge a winner.

    I’ve experienced positives to staff as a result of the inflow of resources which provide development funding, better compensation, improved benefits, access to prospective clients, synergies within the new organization and more.

    On the other hand, I’ve also seen how some staff may be found redundant, which is the worst case, or they may have levels of responsibility and accountability altered within the new environment which can be difficult. That being said, there are cases where the acquired company find itself with no alternative but to be acquired rather than facing shutdown: in these cases, jobs, families and sometimes entire communities are saved.

    Customers are winners when financial, technological and human resources are properly managed for the purposes of providing better, faster and more cost-effective deliverables within an expanded portfolio of service.

    In the end, it may be a question of where one sits — acquired or acquiring — along with the organizations involved and their priorities. It is fair to say that as a result of having only a limited number of ways to measure PR and a relatively limited consumer marketplace within the near-term, some companies within the category will disappear just as new and newly aggregated companies will emerge. Blame it on the free market.

  4. Dred Porter March 7, 2008 at 9:13 pm #

    There is an alternative source for broadcast monitoring and internet monitoring. Yes Cision and Burelle’s/VMS the the big players, but there is an entire network of small monitoring services like Magnolia that can provide more coverage at the grass roots level most of the time, at a better value, and better quality.

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