Acquisition of Environics Analytics helps Bell prepare for “cookie-less world”

Bell Canada has acquired marketing and analytics company Environics Analytics in a deal that the 17-year-old company says provides it with the support it needs “to grow and innovate at scale.” Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The deal sees Bell add more than 200 data scientists, software developers and marketing experts. Environics Analytics will retain its name and will operate under its existing management structure and leadership team, but will now be known as Environics Analytics, a Bell Canada company.

The company said it will continue to provide a full range of insights, ranging from demographics and segmentation, to psychographic, behaviour and media preferences. “We look forward to a period of rapid growth, innovation and new challenges,” said the company in a statement on its website.

Founded by president and CEO Jan Kestle in 2003, Environics Analytics has clients across sectors including financial services, retail, travel, telecommunications, media, automotive, government and small business. The company said that its clients will benefit from the added support that Bell’s “scope and scale” will provide.

Bell has been an EA customer since 2004, using its PRIZM segmentation system, DemoStats and a wide variety of behaviour databases to provide value to Bell Canada and Bell Media customers.

Environics Analytics says that connecting the right messages with the right audience will become more critical in the impending “cookie-less” world, not just for marketers but for the delivery of crucial social and economic programs. The company pledged to enhance its programs, combine online and offline data and increase the pace of adding features to its platforms.

“These efforts will make it easier for businesses, not-for-profits and governments, along with their agencies, to get the right messages to the right audiences at the right time based on our extensive data products,” it said in the statement.

Tim Hughes, managing director of Toronto media agency cairnsoneil, said the acquisition is a smart one for Bell Media, and a “very strong statement” about the company’s view regarding the importance of data in a world where cookies are no longer used to target advertising to consumers.

“Acquiring Environics is a very strong play,” he said. “It signals that they’re looking forward to a future where we can no longer rely on cookies for retargeting.”

Third-party cookies have been a bedrock component of the digital advertising industry for years, enabling brands to deliver targeted ads based on how consumers move across the web, but with browser developers ending their support for third-party cookies in the coming years, that will makes segmentation tools such as PRIZM particularly important going forward, said Hughes.

“[It] should allow us to do some very tight location targeting and purchasing,” he said. Some cairnsoneil clients, for example, currently use PRIZM data to direct out-of-home buys to specific audience segments.

While Environics said in its statement that it will continue to provide insights “to all organizations [that] rely on our products and services,” Hughes said that media agencies will be watching with interest to see if Bell might restrict access to the Environics segmentation data in the future.

“There are so many media vendors that pitch us Environics data as one of their data points… when they’re building out targets [or] building segmentation for us,” he said. “They trade on it, they drive revenue from it, they sell on it, so should that not be available anymore to the many media owners… that could be a bit problematic. While I wouldn’t say we rely on it, it’s very useful when we’re working with different vendors.

“My wonder would be, down the road is there a possible two-tier structure where the general market gets X but Bell customers get Y?”

Chris Powell