As WPP's Millward Brown Buys Rival InsightExpress, What Role For Brand Lift Surveys In Programmatic Media?

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The advertising research sector saw a bit of consolidation Tuesday, as WPP Group's Millward Brown revealed it would acquire InsightExpress. Both companies are known for survey-based approaches to advertising campaign measurement.

Speaking with AdExchanger, Millward Brown President Stephen DiMarco said there's a natural fit between these companies' traditional panel-based approaches and the rise of the programmatic media buy.

“Brand lift research has continued unabated in the emergence of programmatic media,” DiMarco told AdExchanger. “However, the next frontier will be not just collecting brand lift data on media bought by programmatic means but the enablement of brand data in the programmatic purchasing process.”

He added, “That’s where the combination of Millward Brown Digital’s brand expertise and InsightExpress’ media savvy make this union interesting for marketers."

InsightExpress' media insights are built on cross-device analytics, with a methodological approach to marketing accountability. The company's portfolio of solutions includes tools to measure display, video and mobile. AdInsights, for example, measures what impact digital advertising has on brand perception and sales. IdeaImpact, another tool, measures early stage feedback on new advertising concepts. 

For media, InsightExpress offers MediaInsights, which takes a slightly different approach to audience measurement. The tool measures post-purchase metrics and churns out insights applicable to future campaigns. Beyond its tools, InsightExpress also conducts quarterly research reports via its Digital Consumer Portrait publishing series.

InsightExpress's 2013 revenues totaled $24.4 million, according to WPP.

Exchange-traded media has been rapidly adopted by marketers for whom traditional brand metrics such as ad recall and purchase intent are primary objectives. Large consumer packaged goods advertisers, including Procter & Gamble and Mondelez International, have pledged to dramatically increase their investments in programmatic media platforms this year.

This trend has been helped along by the increasing ease with which offline purchases can be attributed back to the online ad impression, courtesy of companies like Datalogix and Nielsen Catalina Solutions. Some have said this measurement shift calls into question the long-term necessity of "proxy" KPIs like that have been Millward Brown's currency for many years.

But DiMarco doesn't see it as an either/or proposition.

“While clients recognize the opportunity that comes from measuring sales, brand lift becomes more accessible when they are paying more attention than ever to upper-funnel metrics that have a longer term impact on the success of the brand,” he said.

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