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Meet Our Partners: Q&A with MRI-Simmons

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TruAudience® solutions enable the marketing ecosystem to leverage data and identity with trust. In this series, we will introduce the partners who are critical to our success.

Tell us about your role at MRI-Simmons

I currently serve as SVP of Product Strategy and Innovation at MRI-Simmons where I’m responsible for the continuous evolution of its product portfolio. This includes conceptualizing and ultimately building out solutions that expand MRI-Simmons' consumer truth set beyond traditional use cases and into key growth areas like advanced advertising, data enrichment, and digital and programmatic activation. A good example of recent innovation here at MRI-Simmons was the launch of ACT, the company’s digital activation solution.

My role is about making MRI-Simmons’ data seamlessly available in all environments so marketers can leverage the same high-quality and representative data they’ve relied upon for decades across all marketing use cases.

What is a top use case for media buyers leveraging MRI-Simmons audiences?

Media buyers (and planners) face a number of challenges in the activation process, chief among which is the difficulty buyers encounter when attempting to recreate complex consumer targets provided by their planning teams. This is especially true when the dataset used in the planning process isn’t available within the preferred activation platform. Lack of transparency is equally challenging with marketers having little clarity around the originating source of data. These challenges lead to substantial waste and trust concerns in the industry.

To address these challenges, MRI-Simmons adopted a one audience approach to activation in which a nuanced target audience can be built and shared between planners, buyers and their media activation endpoints. This enables buyers to leverage a consistent audience across all phases of the campaign lifecycle from strategy to activation to measurement without losing the intent and fidelity of the original audience definition. By defining and sharing clear target definitions, this one audience strategy allows buyers to increase efficiency and reduce waste. Moreover, the ability to target the same audiences across data-driven, linear, digital and addressable channels allows for the consistent measurement of outcomes against a desired audience.

Can you give us some details on how MRI-Simmons’ data is sourced or collected?

Absolutely. It all starts with our approach to recruiting our respondents. At a basic level, you cannot choose to be part of our study, we must select you.

To determine who we select, MRI-Simmons employs the highest-quality sampling methodology in our industry, which is probabilistic, address-based sampling. By design, it ensures everyone in the country has a known chance of being selected to participate in a survey. The sampling process begins with a robust database of all household postal addresses, and typically allows for one randomly selected respondent per household. We also understand certain subsets of the population are harder to reach, so we oversample in areas to ensure we get the best possible representation of the US as a whole. Also of note is our MRI-Simmons US study is single source, meaning it all comes from the same selected respondent and household.

The result is a set of respondents designed to reflect the natural distribution of the population on measurable variables (like demographics, behaviors, and attitudes), as well as the many characteristics that cannot be found in any behavioral or transactional datasets (such as underlying motivation to participate, self-identity statements, attitudes, opinions, interests, etc.). When carried out across tens of thousands of respondents (as MRI-Simmons does many times a year), this approach also allows marketers to examine granular slices of the market without compromising the stability of insights.

This approach differentiates MRI-Simmons from many other datasets that use opt-in panels where respondents choose to be a part of a panel and then are “screened” to be part of any research.

What do you want media buyers to know about the data and methodology MRI-Simmons uses to build audiences?

As data providers, we have a responsibility to deliver information that’s not only timely but also accurate and actionable. There’s no shortage of data providers in the market now — all of which make grandiose claims about their datasets. Some tout sample size and data recency, while others piggy-back on buzz words like “AI.” But very few want to talk about methodology and data quality — which are arguably two of the more important factors every media buyer must consider when determining the actionability of a dataset. And when evaluating quality, certain questions must be asked of any data provider. For example:

  • How representative is the data?
  • How is the data collected?
  • How consistent is the data?
  • Can results be trended and/or benchmarked?
  • Is there good data hygiene?
  • Is the data provider audited by a third party?

At MRI-Simmons, we understand achieving a reliable dataset doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years and even decades of experience to be able to benchmark the consumption of over 6,500 products and services across roughly 600 categories. And we spend millions of dollars annually on data collection, data hygiene and third-party audits. The result is a high-quality, nationally representative and privacy-compliant dataset marketers can trust and leverage for data-driven decision-making.

What is a key challenge MRI-Simmons data and audiences help media buyers solve for?

As mentioned above, we often hear of a disconnect between strategy and activation teams. The strategy group will use MRI-Simmons for things like identifying strategic targets used for media planning, but the media buying teams cannot always enable the same targets to execute their campaigns. As the industry moves into a world where marketers want to plan, buy and measure on a consistent audience target, MRI-Simmons wants to make that easy. Our partnership with TransUnion is one of the ways we’re doing that. By leveraging the identify graph and distribution network TransUnion has established, we can now seamlessly enable MRI-Simmons media planning targets across any environment. This allows strategy and activation teams to speak the same language and use the same audience across all screens and endpoints.

For media buyers looking for MRI-Simmons audiences in the TruAudience Data Marketplace, what would they find?

MRI-Simmons has a robust set of audiences available in the TruAudience® Data Marketplace, and specializes in audiences that focus on consumer behavior, intent and motivations — all of which are typically not found in transactional data and cannot be inferred from social or digital datasets. We’ve used our data to create category specific segments like farm-to-table foodies who value health and sustainability but still leave room for indulgence in their food purchases.

Marketers are also able to leverage in-market (i.e., in-market, major appliance buyer), shopping behavior (i.e., stores shopped), and many of our consumer segmentations (i.e., true techies).

The media and advertising ecosystem has changed a lot in the last decade. What are some ways MRI-Simmons has evolved to keep up?

In terms of evolving with industry changes, I would point to three main areas where we’ve focused our efforts: data, technology and partnerships.

Starting with data, we understand the consumer landscape is more fragmented than ever before, so we increased our sample size to ensure we had the coverage our clients needed to continue decisioning their business. We also have continued to invest in focus studies that dive deeper into topic areas like cord-cutting, sports and retail to name a few.

In terms of technology, we know marketers have more data than ever to deal with, and we needed to simplify the way they get value from our data and make it easy to enable activation. To that end, we’ve been heavily focused on renovating our technology stack, including the release of our new Catalyst platform back in July. This was a key moment for us as we look to evolve beyond just providing insights to enabling action for our customers.

The last topic I mentioned was our partnerships. Because there are so many intricacies to advertising and marketing, we cannot focus on building it all, so instead we’ve built a very robust network of partnerships to unlock additional value from the MRI-Simmons data. Our partnership with the TruAudience Data Marketplace is one demonstration of our efforts to make MRI-Simmons audiences truly portable and actionable across all currencies and advanced advertising endpoints.



The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of TransUnion. The information contained in this blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice. You should consult your own attorney or financial adviser regarding your particular situation. TransUnion does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided.  The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute an endorsement by TransUnion. Trans Union LLC and its affiliates (“TransUnion”) make no endorsement, recommendation, or representation with respect to the information provided herein. For complete details of TransUnion products, visit

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