Recent upheaval in the sector continued last month when Precise sold a majority stake to WPP, the world’s biggest marketing services company and the owner of several PR agencies.
Precise had previously existed outside the agency sphere, like most other providers, so WPP’s move is providing food for thought across the PR industry.
"This deal takes an independent service off the table," says Tim Dyson, CEO of WPP’s smaller rival Next Fifteen, who adds it may force some PR agencies to buy from WPP.
In-house users of monitoring may have cause for worry, believes the CIPR’s lead trainer on measurement and evaluation, Andrew Smith. "Consolidation in the sector could lead to increased costs," he says – a fair concern in the light of the merger of Vocus and Cision earlier in June.
However, consolidation is not the only dynamic at work in the market. There is also rising demand from customers for the ability to keep tabs on traditional and social media through one provider.
"Social media and digital monitoring is an increasing share of media monitoring," says Smith.
Dyson adds: "These days you want to monitor and compare all your channels in one place so that you can see what’s working, what’s not and where there is crossover." A spokeswoman for Kantar, the research and insight-focused division of WPP into which Precise will slot, says it is not yet ready to open up about its plans.
However, when WPP announced the acquisition in June (which reportedly values Precise at £70m), it said the rationale was "increasing demand for media reputation and social discussion tracking".
Proving the point, one of the biggest monitoring and media database customers – the Government – has said its next contract will be expanded to include not just the monitoring of press, online, broadcast and social media, but also evaluation and analysis.
Its current arrangements, in which Gorkana Group is a key supplier, are due to come to an end early next year.
Expressions of interest from potential suppliers for the new contract, which the Government estimates will be worth between £18m and £24m, are due in today (4 July).
Suppliers will be appointed in mid-2015, meaning Precise and WPP (which also holds the Government’s media buying contract and a number of creative briefs) have a fair amount of time to bed in their new arrangements should they choose to compete.
It is too early to say what the deal’s benefits – or drawbacks – might be, believes Dyson, but he observes that WPP clearly wants to 'own' insight.
He predicts more change on the supply side of monitoring due to the Precise deal encouraging other developers to speed up the launch of new products.
Yet another thing to keep an eye on, you will be pleased to hear.