MSA Progress, Growing Capabilities, and Ongoing Competitive Prospects

By: Al Kuehn, MSA Founder, and Chairman MSA Information Technology (Shanghai) Ltd.
Market Science Associates, Inc. was incorporated in 1963, after 8 years of R&D in analytics and modeling with Unilever and Scott Paper to study product introductions, advertising and other market drivers. The growth in MSA’s use of computers for “management” led Market Science in 1967 to become a Division of Management Science Associates. Its MSA logo was also applied to Medical Science, Media Science, and in 1969 to Metro-Sports Associates, when it was first to create animated computerized NFL & MLB scoreboards for the opening of Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh and Veterans’ Stadium in Philadelphia.  Its logo was then also used for Market Science (UK) in 1969, in Canada in 1985 and for MSA-China in 2004.

MSA consumer behavior theories/models facilitated timely decisions by analysis of extensive market data in great detail that was impossible without computers. Bob Trueblood, Founder of Touche Ross, which became a Big 8 Audit firm, helped MSA become established in 1963, as he wanted to work with the first firm using computers for an international marketing firm. He later received a US Presidential Award for being first to audit a public firm using only electronic accounting machines.

MSA has innovated with computer software and hardware for 60 years, which pre-dates its formal incorporation. Seymour Cray, creator of the world’s fastest computers for the most years, helped MSA bring a CDC-3200 to Duquesne University in 1967. A 2nd CDC-3200 to MSA followed that, along with upgrades thereafter.  He was impressed with MSA at the CDC Rockville facility. In 1987, Gordon Bell, designer of Vax computers, helped MSA get the world’s 1st commercial DEC Vax-780 when he saw MSA wouldn’t need a manual and could learn to provide its own maintenance! MSA was also first to enable clients to put data on-line for a few days. Accurate data loading/unloading was such a problem that few data centers would do that. MSA also launched its leading edge PGH NE data center using optic fiber lit by MSA’s lasers to achieve unique security in 2002! Such MSA innovations in Technology, Analytics and Data (detail, accuracy, timelines, measures) became a key to MSA’s success, represented by the 3-circle MSA Venn diagram: Technology, Analytics and Data.

Innovations enabled MSA to be unique in analyzing 350 AdTel six-nine month tests of ad campaigns for over 70 CPG firms (1968-76) and a follow-up Nielsen/ARB Apollo Study (2006-8). MSA’s anti-trust compliant Industry Services for all competitors (e.g., US States Attorneys General 25-year Master Settlement Agreement with the Tobacco Industry in 1998) and de-identification of patient/respondent data pre-dating HIPAA also resulted from such innovations. In the 1980s MSA enabled clients to get ad agencies to budget over 20% of Brand advertising for CableTV, leading all Top 25 Agencies and over 93 CableTV Networks to become MSA clients. Related research led MSA to provide TV support services in more than 25 countries in Europe, Asia, the Mid-East and the Pacific Islands. Innovations also led MSA to develop what is now the Gold Standard for payment, market-place measurement, and actionable insights for indirectly supplied channels such as Convenience.

What about the future? New policies and practices being imposed on firms, often to presumably aid employees, increase uncertainty regarding legal compliance, oversight, and risk. Such policies can impact firms' profitability, and MSA is not exempt from this. As a privately owned company with a strong and stable fiscal foundation, MSA does not make short-term decisions at the expense of long-term sustainability. MSA has always continued to pursue growth through R&D and innovations and has not relied, and will not rely, on cutbacks to maximize short-term profits or minimize the impact of such policies and requirements. This is in the best interest of MSA employees and clients and a point of differentiation in partnering with MSA. This approach has proven successful for over five decades as MSA continues to pioneer in all Verticals in which we compete. We are optimistic about the opportunities in the near term and the market response to our recent areas of innovation.
As MSA has been transformational in having the vision to realize the potential of Analytics, Data, and Technology decades before the "rest of the world", we remain transformational, forward thinking and leading edge in our thinking and investment in these areas. We continue to ramp up our agility. For example, our new Hadoop eco-system enables more rapid and affordable integration of Enterprise and public structured and unstructured data and embedded predictive and prescriptive analytics for quicker insight identification and activation. MSA’s CPG clients are beginning to take advantage of these advancements with our Retailer POS data management, integration, and analysis capabilities made available in September 2015. Since 2012, the IMS Division has doubled its client base, fueled in part by innovations in Trade Program Management and Direct Marketing Data Management and Analysis. This growth demonstrates the strength of the MSA brand and the value of the solutions provided.

In other MSA Verticals, R&D and innovations are also creating profitable growth opportunities and client-base expansion. ‎ALEX media software, announced publicly at the EMMY® Award ceremony for MSA's Gabriel system in January, will start being used extensively in July when timely detailed TV data becomes available. We are currently expanding those capabilities to Digital Media. We have also had significant success expanding our penetration of the Canadian market with several ongoing pilots of our core RIS product and by also securing a multi-year partnership with ITWAL. ‎MSA's Gaming Analytics are also being accepted by US and Asia/Pacific Casinos, which include unique player loyalty models. The MSA Metals Group is in advanced stages of working with Mexican steel mills exploring use of MSA's RMDAS™ system to improve the use of recycled steel scrap.  

With the "rest of the world" catching on to the importance of data and analytics by referring to it as “Big Data”, MSA's mastery of these areas combined with investment and commitment to innovation and talent has put us in a prime position for our next generation of success. We are honored to have long-term continuity of clients like yourselves and talented, committed employees; but that is not something that we take for granted. As a small firm, our diversification mitigates risks associated with any one client or Industry, and our perpetual state of thinking ahead of the market and preparing for new challenges has and will continue to serve us and our clients well for the future.