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Meet Britain’s Digital Elite

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Winner of our Marketplace Analysis category: Thomson Intermedia

If you’ve ever advertised in a newspaper then Thomson Intermedia will know who you are. Founded by husband and wife team Steve and Sarah Jane Thomson with Mintel colleague Paul Gladman in 1997, the firm’s technology pores over just about every advertising medium imaginable.

It scans radio and television stations, extracting information about the ads, monitors direct mail drops, cinema ads, internet banners and even Google sponsored links. By comparing this information with known ratecard fees, Thomson can estimate ad spend by individual companies, calculate campaign costs and estimate reach.

In just ten years, Thomson has become a core source of information for the entire advertising industry. The firm’s 300 clients access data through a web portal where they can see up-to-the minute metrics. The monitoring service orders the information so clients can create their own tailor-made homepage with all known information on rivals displayed on a single page. Not for nothing do the UK’s biggest media agencies turn to Thomson before they spend a penny on media space.

Thomson also offers a media monitoring service, collating every mention of your company throughout the media. If you’ve been slagged off in the NorthamptonChronicle & Echo, you’ll get to hear about it within hours.

Collecting the information isn’t easy. The newspaper operation alone requires the scanning of thousands of regional newspapers, in addition to the nationals. Radioads are captured using proprietary technology and integrated with market data from a JET feed.

The internet capture operation is perhaps the most ambitious. Thomson’s crawlers travel through cyberspace noting all shockwaves and flash banners, pop-ups, pop-unders, banners, buttons, sponsored links and search engines’ content-sensitive ads. Thomson gathers detailed page impression estimates from a panel of 15,000 UK-based internet users to arrive at page impression and expenditure totals for each ad campaign.

Thomson’s technology is developed in-house by its 240 employees, and the payoffs from this operation are as handsome as the technology behind it. Turnover has risen from £11.1m in 2006 to £20m this year, with £3.1m in operating profits. The technology is currently licensed to partners in Germany, Brazil, Greece and Cyprus, and the firm is actively looking for new partners in larger markets.

Highly Commended: BrainJuicer

John Kearon spent 15 years as a market researcher at Unilever lamenting the cost, speed and inaccuracy of market information. So he started his own firm.

The result, BrainJuicer, founded in 2000, relies on the internet to gather responses to open-ended questions. BrainJuicer then crunches the results with powerful proprietary analytics software to provide the most insightful information possible to clients.

Kearon has recently pioneered the use of webcams to capture users’ responses to stimuli. The resulting product, FaceTrace, is used by Shell, Pepsi and, fittingly, Unilever. Floated on AIM last year, BrainJuicer is valued at £23m, though Kearon is confident his young firm can power past the £100m mark in the next few years.

Highly Commended: Sciemus

Insuring satellites is a risky business. If one goes missing, you’re looking at a bill of $100m or more. Which is why Sciemus’s number crunching is so valued. Their algorithms help the insurers calculate a premium for each satellite. So far, the company has helped insure 80 satellites, one tenth of the total in existence.

Founded by former cybernetics lecturer Andre Finn and ministry of defence mathematician Neil Fleming, Sciemus’s Space RAT programme uses ten Java packages, 230 modules, 3,500 lines of HTML and 59,000 lines of code. The result is the industry’s largest dataset.

In partnership with insurer Liberty Syndicates, Sciemus can provide insurance of up to $225m, compared to the market average of $20m. Amazingly, none of the satellites it has insured have required a pay-out, making it one of the few satellite insurers to have made a net profit.

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