Managing the Captive Research and Analytics Firm

Last year, we undertook a research project to examine an under-explored type of professional services firm: research and analytics firms that are tightly held and closely aligned with a parent company like a PR, advertising, or media agency. We call these captive agencies because they’re much more tightly integrated with their parent firm than a typical subsidiary.  Captive agencies operate in a sort of gray area between internal departments and independent business units, and this gray area creates a unique challenges for firm leaders.

As part of the research, we conducted interviews with a half-dozen executives in captive agencies and combined them with our experience from specific projects with three different captive agencies. While each of the situations we looked at had different histories, business models, and strategies, they all tended to confront similar challenges, even as they devised different approaches towards meeting them.

To help leaders in captive research and analytics agencies confront these challenges, we’ve developed a series of articles that we’ll be releasing throughout the year:

  1. “The Three Types of Captive Research Firms” looks at different models we’ve seen captive agencies adopt, usually unconsciously, and examines the origins, strengths, weaknesses, and visions for each type.
  2. In “Innovations in People Management for Captive Research Firms” we identify strategies for attracting and growing the right staff for your firm
  3. “Creating New Offerings in Captive Research Firms” explores what makes new research and analytics products successful
  4. “The Future of the Captive Agency” looks at some of the challenges captive agencies are facing and the

Like most professional services firms, captive agencies are seeing a great deal of flux in their businesses. Since starting the research a year ago, at least one of the firms we looked at already went through a significant reorganization with their parent agency to take on new capabilities. As such, we see this articles as the start of a conversation, rather than a point in time observation, and that leaders in captive agencies will participate in that conversation as they assess, plan, and grow their businesses.  Further, although we focused on captive research and analytics firms, we think there are lessons that would be useful for any other type of tightly integrated subsidiary, and even some internal departments.