The company maintains a database on more than 4,000 brands and 800 product categories as well as information on the demographics, self-concept, media habits and product usage of a national sample of adults, teens, children, Hispanics, Internet users and computer professionals. This information allows ad agencies to better target their clients' markets and formulate a plan for media allocation.
SMRB was founded as W.R. Simmons & Associates Research in 1952 by Willard R. Simmons. Mr. Simmons designed the magazine industry's first syndicated audience research study. The first major study using his method was conducted in the fall of 1962. Interviewers went to respondents' homes to ask them a series of questions related to various print media. A subsample of the respondents completed TV-viewing diaries and provided more specific information on product and brand usage.
The surveys provided average issue "through-the-book" measurements (i.e., total audience data) for 36 publications, including The Saturday Evening Post, Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping, McCall's and Ladies' Home Journal. For the first time, total audience data were provided for large-circulation magazines such as Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, Business Week and National Geographic.
The research study's magazine roster gradually increased from 36 to 80 titles. However, the adoption of year-round interviewing created great strains on the interviewers, and the length of the questionnaires raised issues about respondent fatigue, especially as more titles were added.
With the advent of computers in the 1970s, the company was able to collect and process more information. Computers enabled the researcher to increase substantially both the number of magazines on its roster as well as the size of its respondent base. As of 2001, SMRB reported that approximately 33,000 adults had responded to its National Consumer Survey. In addition, the research company provides data on magazine readership, media mixes, demographic profiles and budget setting.
Mergers and acquisitions
In 1973, Mr. Simmons left to form Three Sigma Research, where he continued to develop media research studies. That year, Simmons & Associates Research came under fire when the 1973 study produced abnormal results and was subsequently canceled. In the wake of the turmoil, U.K.-based Target Group Index won over many of Simmons' customers. In 1975, W.R. Simmons & Associates was bought by National Student Marketing, which in 1976 sold it to a group that included Maxwell Dane and Ned Doyle of Doyle Dane Bernbach, Paul Chook and Frank Stanton.
In 1978, the Simmons Market Research Bureau was formed through the merger of W.R. Simmons & Associates and TGI. Later that year, SMRB acquired Three Sigma Research, which at the time was conducting surveys on 190 U.S. newspapers. The acquisition was significant not only because it meant the return to SMRB of its founder, Mr. Simmons but also because the acquisition gave SMRB a competitive advantage in newspaper research.
In 1998, SMRB was acquired by Symmetrical Resources Inc., a marketing information company founded in 1992 that specialized in providing consumer purchasing information to media organizations and retailers.