Data, Data Everywhere in the Upfront. An Overview - Part 5

This is the fifth and final part of a series examining many of the new data initiatives of major data companies. Parts 1 through 4 outlined the many data initiatives, their scalability, whether their services were gaining traction in the industry and the issue of a standard metric to link systems and platforms. Now in Part 5, we tackle the role of Research in an era of Data. Is its role changing? 

Is there a future of Research as we know it? The question addressed here in Part Five was precipitated by some major changes over the past year including the transitioning of one research department into a data specialist department, layoffs at some other research departments and the building of new, business intelligence departments working in tandem with traditional research departments but reporting to different managements. 

According to ARF CEO Gayle Fuguitt, “There's never been a better or harder time to be in research, insights and analytics, and there's never been a more important time. Data is just facts, without inherent insight.  The role of the new analytics leader is to develop growth ideas and quantity opportunities that bring consumers' needs and values to life and make an emotional connection.”

My Take: My concern about the future of Research is not some random paranoia. There is scuttle talk that even Sales, that sacrosanct area of perpetual expansion, might retrench with the advent of programmatic TV. With change there is transition and even upheaval. So why should Research, even in this age of data worship, not be negatively impacted as well? One would think that the focus on data would catapult Research’s role in C-Suite decision-making but I am of the opinion that the results so far are mixed. In fact, executive titles in Research are now tending to leave off the term “Research” while adding “Analytics”, “Insights” and “Strategy”.  When did “Research” become a title to be avoided?

Question 5: What is the status of the Research department in your company? Has the data imperative changed the perceptions of your departments? If so, how?

Beth Rockwood (Senior Vice President, Market Resources, Discovery Communications): The research group’s responsibilities are growing; we are in the fortunate position of being able to demonstrate the value of our inventory in new ways.  Collaboration with sales teams, agencies and clients, has always been important, but now is much more central to our role as researchers. 
David Poltrack (Chief Research Officer, CBS Corporation and President of CBS VISION): It hasn’t changed the perception of our department because we have been looking beyond the demos for many years. We have been working with our sales team on usage based data and metrics that are more definitive than age and sex to evaluate our media offerings vs the competition. The fact is that we have formalized the program and significantly increased our investment because more advertisers are beginning to embrace and talk about these new data sources and the quality and quantity of the data is much greater and more comprehensive today. More and better data and growing advertiser interest have moved research into a more operational part of the business.

Tom Ziangas (SVP Research and Insights, AMC Networks): The AMCN Research team under my leadership has managed a very simple mission statement which is, “WE MAKE EVERYONE SMARTER”.  Our data initiatives are a function the lack of movement by industry research partners. We need a holistic view into the world of media and how it is being consumed across platform & device, our data initiatives are exposing key stakeholders in Senior management, Ad-Sales, Programming, Marketing and Affiliate on how we can better target, segment, use 3rd party data and understand the behaviors’ of our consumers.

Geri Wang (President ABC Sales, ABC): Research continues to be a critical component of our ABC and larger TWDC organization, and, as the emergence of new types of data and use cases evolve, we are continuing to invest in new capabilities and people across our organization.  We’ve hired a number of data scientists to work specifically on data modeling and targeting initiatives, and have in the past year created a new group within the NY Sales organization responsible for all data-driven and programmatic sales strategy and implementation.  We expect those investments in people and capabilities to continue.

Katie Larkin (EVP Advertising Sales Research and Strategy, NBCU): All of advertising sales research came together under one roof last year. We are focused on our clients’ needs and bringing comprehensive data-driven capabilities to the marketplace. We added a dedicated analytics team and we are pushing forward to find new metrics in order to give clients better insights. Our move to Cogent Reports for CNBC’s Business Day is an example of needing to go beyond Nielsen because their measurement of out of home viewers and highly affluent audience is inadequate. Our research and insights continue to evolve as we drive and lead in this space of data and analytics.

Paul Haddad (SVP and General Manager Advanced Data Analytics, Cablevision Media Sales): With the availability of census level set-top box data the concept of research and reporting evolves to accurate and accountable measurement that leads to advanced insights and analytics. We see data as glue across all platforms. Without it, there would be no realizing the full value in new advanced advertising techniques. Data is plugged into every platform and every step of our work flow, and comprehensive census-level data is crucial for more accurate measurement in general.

Kern Schireson (EVP, Data Strategy and Consumer Intelligence, Viacom): Research has long been an essential aspect of our business, but we no longer separate data from research. Data and research work in unison at Viacom, and both continue to broaden and evolve at our company ever-rapidly to stay ahead of the pace at which our consumers’ consumption behaviors change as they engage with our brands and stories across an expanding array of platforms and experiences.

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