As cookies fade, more agencies make bets on consumer research panels — and their first-party data

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If data is the oil of the media business, new repositories and refineries are popping up everywhere. Especially when the biggest oil field — third-party cookies — is drying up. 

Just days after Stagwell launched a new consumer research product called Unlock Surveys within its Stagwell Marketing Cloud division, consumer research firm Disqo has moved to partner with TV set maker Vizio’s Inscape technology unit to generate a deeper set of omnichannel behavioral research in hopes of helping marketers and other media agencies get closer to achieving deterministic outcomes.  

Through the partnership, Digiday has learned, Disqo will gain access to Inscape’s automatic content recognition (ACR) TV viewing data, to be paired with Disqo’s other products that measure brand lift and outcomes, which in turn help advertisers measure the cross-media and full-funnel impact of ad campaigns. Clients, which include marketers and agencies, can bridge the divide between brand metrics, like awareness, favorability and purchase intent, to performance outcomes, like search, site visits and shopping, across their whole multimedia campaign. 

It’s the ability to add TV data to the cross-media interplay of consumer usage that Disqo’s CEO Armen Adjemian thinks is of particular value to marketers and agencies. 

“We’re able to understand what individual is exposed to what advertising where — and when we do that, we’re able to not only engage them for attitudinal, brand lift metrics, but we’re also able to see and look at their customer journey, and understand how their down-funnel behaviors are changing, because of the impact of advertising,” said Adjemian. “And we’re able to now understand how a unique individual is exposed to TV as a channel, social as a channel, programmatic as a channel and other types, and being able to understand how those various different mediums result in an outcome.”

“Our mission is to drive transformation across the TV ecosystem,” said Ken Norcross, vp of data licensing and strategy at Vizio, who noted the company accesses 23 million opted-in Vizio TV sets. “Inscape helps clients more accurately measure their audiences across distribution platforms — including OTT, streaming, linear and OTA. We reduce barriers for our partners, which is the upside to working with companies like Disqo. The breadth and depth of this ACR data also helps us strategize across many of our own business verticals, from our advertising business to consumer experience.”

Adjemian noted that Walmart’s proposed acquisition of Vizio — which was heralded as a possible game changer in the retail giant’s battle with Amazon for e-commerce supremacy — shouldn’t affect how Disqo and Inscape will work together. “I don’t think it changes how we’re engaged with Vizio,” he said. Norcross confirmed it’s “business as usual at Vizio.”

In the meantime, agency holding company Stagwell, which has been building out a host of software-as-a-service and data-as-a-service products in its Stagwell Marketing Cloud unit, launched a new product called Unlock Surveys at the end of February. Unlock Surveys is designed to create a consumer research operation that can be accessed by any Stagwell agency to use whenever it needs more first-party data or insights into consumer behavior. 

Stagwell built Unlock Surveys out of a company called Springboard, which Stagwell acquired when it bought Maru Group in 2022, said Elspeth Rollert, CEO of Stagwell Marketing Cloud. Already set up in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, Unlock Surveys will be led by managing director Adam Dietrich.

Rollert noted that Stagwell agencies spent in the neighborhood of $50 million on third-party panels from outside the company, which can now be saved by turning to Unlock Surveys. “The ability for us to tap into proprietary data and, because we own the panel, have longitudinal-type studies while doubling down in areas that we think are more interesting is a huge advantage for us,” Rollert said. “We’re pushing [Stagwell sibling agencies] to tap into the panel as well as they look to grow their business and capitalize on opportunities.”

But beyond that, the motivations to build Unlock Surveys are driven by the need for more first-party data to compensate for disappearing cookies, as well as the sometimes financial-pressure impact of private equity investment on firms in the research space that can lead to corners being cut. “There’s a little bit of a market factor as well as an internal factor,” said Dietrich.

One of Unlock Survey’s first clients is sibling research division HarrisX, which is led by founder and CEO Dritan Nesho. For Nesho it’s about executing the same level of quality, only faster and cheaper, since it’s in-house.

“The Unlock panel takes the guesswork out of it — they do all of the work in ensuring an engaged panel, a representative panel, a panel of the highest possible quality upfront,” he said. “And for us, that removes many of those pain points and many of those burdens. Plus it’s within the family, so obviously we can see how it’s all done and can contribute to the process.”

Of course, agencies have been building out this area of expertise for a few years now. Omnicom launched its OMG Signal in 2021, attached to its sprawling Omni orchestration platform. Horizon Media the same year started its behavioral science unit within its WHY Group.

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