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Comcast: Rip and Run Research

Account executives for cable’s largest local advertising sales organization are getting sophisticated research into the hands of clients a lot faster than they used to. Their secret weapon: an online research portal that spits out detailed, geographically parsed reports within a few clicks of a computer mouse.

Determined to reduce the time its 3,200 AEs spend preparing reports and presentations, Comcast Spotlight has consolidated research from third-party providers like Scarborough Research and R.L. Polk & Co. into a Web-based repository maintained by SRC, an Orange County, Calif., business software provider.

What’s different:

  • Uniformity. Comcast Spotlight’s platform unifies research from multiple sources into a common faceplate that makes disparate databases look and perform the same way. Scouring Polk auto sales reports or combing through U.S. Census estimates involves manipulating identical sets of menus and sorting routines, an approach that lets AEs “pretty quickly plow through the relevant databases,” says Jonathan Sims, Comcast VP, research. That’s a contrast from past practices in which AEs sometimes waited a week or more for overburdened research specialists to complete special data requests.
  • Data democracy. The data sets are housed and hosted on independent Web servers, meaning any Comcast AE can get to the information from any PC with a Web browser. Previously, “This type of sophistication was confined, due to the cost, to just a few markets,” says Sims.
  • Geo-coding. The Comcast Spotlight research portal mashes the third-party market information into a database of cable advertising geographies maintained by the industry advertising rep firm National Cable Communications (NCC). Updated nightly, the NCC database stores the set of boundaries that describe the U.S. local cable ad market. That makes it possible to express demographic or business trends in the context of cable’s unique ad sales geographies. Before, says Sims, “It was very difficult to take MRI or Scarborough data and cluster code and model it into our unique footprints.”

How it works: In a demonstration using Polk data, the Spotlight application divined within a few mouse clicks the number of Ford Explorers sold in Comcast’s Bolder, Colo., ad zone in January and February a the local dealer Champion Ford (three, as it turns out). A comparison of newspaper readership and cable subscribers among a dozen or so Comcast Denver-area zones, gleaned from an Audit Bureau of Circulation database, was on the screen in a less than a minute. That’s the first time Comcast has had that level of geographic precision coupled with highly granular third-party market data from multiple providers within a common data platform, says Sims. SRC provides a similar data platform for Cox Media and Adlink of Los Angeles, according to SRC’s co-founder Olivia Duane-Adams.