"[Social media] is a sector that is early in terms of revenue, but the fact that one of the most influential players in global media research [has bought Cymfony] validates that large corporations feel a business-critical need to know what's being said about them in social media channels," said David Clark, a managing director of media investment bank Jordan, Edmiston Group. "No one looking for a partner in this space is at a distinct disadvantage in the marketplace."
Clark added that the deal will give TNS ammo to compete more effectively for market share with rival Nielsen BuzzMetrics.
Jordan, Edmiston represented Cymfony in the transaction, announced Feb. 26. Financial terms were not disclosed.
TNS plans to integrate Cymfony's tracking and analysis of both traditional media and what is broadly defined as "social media"—blogs, social networks or any Web site that falls under the heading of Web 2.0—with its own tracking of advertising spending.
TNS tracks the ad expenditures of more than 2.4 million brands across 20 media in North America. Each business day it adds 400 to 700 brands to its database, said Steven Fredericks, TNS president-CEO.
Social media continues to grow by leaps and bounds. According to Compete, which tracks online behavior, the number of visitors to social networking sites has increased 414% since 2004.
The vast majority of TNS' client base is in the b-to-b sector, while 25% of Cymfony's clients are b-to-b companies. After it is fully integrated into TNS, Cymfony hopes to ramp up the number of its b-to-b customers, said Andrew Bernstein, CEO of Cymfony.
"This is a game-changer," Bernstein said, referring to the deal. "For a lot of b-to-b companies, [social media] is not about blogs but vertical message boards about technology or OEM [original equipment manufacturer] services."
He added: "Now we can go into b-to-b companies and demonstrate how their advertising expenditures fit into the buzz."
Bernstein said Cymfony plans to tap into several of TNS' services, which include vertical industry research; TNS Media Research, which tracks advertising spending on radio and TV; and AdScope, which focuses on online video as well as broadcast and cable television.
"This is out most important acquisition in four years," Fredericks said, alluding to TNS' purchase of Campaign Media Analysis Group in 2003. "We could have built [a social media unit] within two years, but there's going to be a tipping point with user-generated media in the next two to three years, so we wanted to catch the train before it left the station."