In the past year, Yahoo has undertaken studies of its own on such subjects as men as shoppers and joined agencies including Publicis Groupe 's Digitas Health and Razorfish, and Omnicom's BBDO on other research subjects. Now, Yahoo is linking with its own media shop, Starcom MediaVest Group, to launch a nine-country study of moms that will incorporate social-media listening, online communities, video ethnography and surveys.
As one of the oldest digital media companies around, Yahoo has a rich trove of user behavioral data, said Lauren Weinberg, VP-strategic research and insights, but increasingly its research draws on outside sources. "We really try to be objective," Ms. Weinberg said. "We don't start with Yahoo consumers because we want to represent more than just what's happening on Yahoo."
Realistically, the studies do aim at building revenue, Ms. Weinberg said, though not often directly as a profit center. "It's all tied to revenue in some regard," she said. "These are things that clients come to us and say, What can you tell us about what's going on with tablets and how we should incorporate that into our digital strategy?'"
Yahoo is pursuing research where some social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn haven't been as active, at least not with outside research to directly validate their own media offerings.
"It's probably just because our business is a little more mature, and a lot of people here support research and insights," Ms. Weinberg said. "It's definitely a big tool we can leverage in terms of just kind of getting out in the marketplace and having different conversations with our clients."
Yahoo recently completed the first part of a study with BBDO about how storytelling works with consumers across paid, earned and owned media, which came about when Simon Bond, chief marketing officer of BBDO, heard a Yahoo presentation earlier in the year about digital storytelling.
Yahoo also worked with Razorfish for a study about mobile media, TV and multitasking, finding 80% of consumers are using mobile devices while watching TV. With Digitas Health, it did a study about the health needs of women in their 40s and 50s, prompted by requests from pharmaceutical clients, Ms. Weinberg said.
Because Yahoo tends to enlist outside vendors in the projects, she said its growing research footprint isn't a threat to traditional research companies.
"When we talk to agencies, we often find that we're trying to solve for the same things in the industry," Ms. Weinberg said. "And when we work together, we each bring unique perspectives."
The global study with SMG on moms and technology will cover the U.S., U.K., India, France, Russia, China, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia, including social-media listening and establishing online communities of 100 moms in each country. SMG and Yahoo will also do video ethnographies and quantitative surveys in the native languages of each country.
"I think it will be one of the biggest most comprehensive studies on global moms," Ms. Weinberg said. "It's such an important audience to us and global advertisers."
Of course, one big mutual client of SMG and Yahoo, Procter & Gamble Co., will have a particular interest as it prepares to roll out its "Proud Sponsor of Moms" corporate campaign on a more global stage in conjunction with its sponsorship of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London next year.
"We saw the real advantage as being able to leverage all the global assets that Yahoo has," said Adam Kruse, VP-global director of SMG's Moms Human Experience Center. SMG also handles media for Yahoo, of course, but Mr. Kruse said, "There's also a huge mutual interest in moms," with such properties as Yahoo Shines.
The study will focus on understanding how moms' motivations and habits have evolved and how digital technology is affecting family dynamics that include meal times, special occasions and smaller moments alike, Mr. Kruse said. "It's absolutely something we think will be applicable and help shape strategy for our clients."