Q&A: SMI’s James Fennessy on the New Dynamics of Data

By Media Insights Archives
Cover image for  article: Q&A: SMI’s James Fennessy on the New Dynamics of Data

James Fennessy started his career in sales at News Corporation in both Australia and Asia before launching his own sales consultancy that worked with leading multinational companies across Asia Pacific. His move to SMI in 2011 was fortuitous, to say the least. “I found myself in the SMI business following a hard to resist invitation from the founder and CEO of the business, my wife, Sue Fennessy,” he recalls. “We made the move from Sydney to New York just under five years ago.”

In this interview, Fennessy (a frequent contributor to MediaVillage) talks about SMI data and how it is used to help in strategy, planning, pricing, targeting and shareholder management and how quickly the media market is evolving with the impact of digital. He also looks ahead to see how the media environment will change in the next three to five years. 

Charlene Weisler: Please describe your company's data offerings that are in use in the television sector – and include whether you own your own data and/or aggregate datasets.

James Fennessy: SMI aggregates data from the world’s leading media buying groups. We structure and harmonize data for them in 22 global markets; our product is the aggregated view of ad spending in each of them. SMI delivers a real view of the health of the media sector and pinpoints exactly where advertising spend is flowing every month by sector and media owner. SMI’s proprietary data collection methodology captures more than 80% of total agency spend, offering timely, unparalleled visibility into market dynamics. This data is highly accurate as it comes directly from the booking systems of the agencies and so is much more valuable than current services that rely on rate cards or estimates. It is released on the 15th day of each month for the previous month and covers every media outlet an agency books spend with. This includes television, digital, print, radio and out of home. Our television data is broken out at the network level and we now have great visibility into video and can see how the major networks are successfully monetizing their content on their new digital platforms.

Charlene: What is the ad spend trend for traditional television?

James: Traditional TV is definitely under pressure from digital media and a measurement system that cannot keep up with the changes in viewer behavior. SMI’s data shows that national television has dropped by 4% this broadcast year but this has started to turn around in recent months and, alongside this development, video is really growing rapidly. We think that too much spend shifted out of TV too quickly and this has started to come back as brands realize what a unique and powerful medium TV is.

Charlene: Do you see traditional television eroding against digital?

James: There is no doubt that changing consumer behavior will result in a vastly different ecosystem in the coming years, but it is important to remember that content is still king and the leading broadcast and cable networks have better content than anyone. We are seeing eyeballs shift but many of these will be onto the digital properties created by today’s leading networks. Video spend is through the roof and a lot of this is going to those traditional media owners who are successfully making this transition.

Charlene: What are some of the challenges you see in the television measurement world today? How can these challenges be solved?

James: The biggest and most obvious challenge that we see is the 35% to 40% of TV audiences that aren’t measured by traditional services. We get 100% of ad spend from our agency partners but if our clients cannot match this up accurately against audiences then benchmarking and optimization become very difficult. Another challenge is that there is also a lot of digital spend going through networks and exchanges and these dollars are currently hard to track. Working with the middle men and getting access to their data will provide everyone in the ecosystem with higher quality data that will help advertisers and agencies make better decisions that lead to better consumer engagement and improved financial outcomes.

Image at top courtesy of Corbis. The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers.

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