REVIEWER: Doug Hughes, CEO of DDB Matrix NA.

BACKGROUND: DDB Matrix is an international consultancy spawned in 1999 by advertising giant DDB as the best way to provide consulting and analysis regarding measuring the impact of marketing communications on business results. Using sophisticated statistical methods, Matrix creates mathematical models based on client historical data and uses those models to evaluate, forecast, simulate and optimize marketing support.

PLATFORMS: SAS/ETS is installed on eight workstations (Dell Precision 670 desktops and M60 mobile workstations) running Windows XP Professional.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Before implementing SAS, we found it difficult to scale our analysis to accommodate diverse client data. Marketing communications have become increasingly complex, and controlling for all the factors driving sales frequently requires complex models built on long spans of daily data for individual stores or other geographic units. SAS/ETS has greatly improved the scalability and throughput of our data management and modeling efforts, and allowed us to address client needs in the absolute best way - rather than the best way within the limits of the software.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: SAS/ETS software offers a broad array of time series, forecasting and econometric techniques that enable us to first model, forecast and simulate processes and then analyze the dynamic impact that specific events might have over time. For us, this means we can now take recent company data on sales and advertising spending and prepare custom analyses that spell out, in great detail, which marketing communications are most effective and recommend what to buy, when and in what quantities. We have saved clients hundreds of thousands of dollars using SAS because it doesn't just tell them when media spending isn't profitable, but rather how to reallocate that spending to meet revenue targets. Media planners, in particular, love our forecasting services because clients are traditionally reluctant to change directions without the kind of hard numbers we provide to back up our recommendations. For some major advertisers, we provide daily forecasts - literally recommending the media schedule - that determine which advertising choice will deliver the sales they want, at the level of investment and risk they can afford.

STRENGTHS: Beyond its scalability, SAS is especially strong in two areas: quick, advanced model building and ease of transferring customer files into SAS data sets. We can read whatever data the client has and put it into SAS. The point-and-click interface provides interactive exploration and forecasting of data collected over time. In addition, the models we build benefit from other SAS solutions, such as SAS/IntrNet for delivering interactive applications over the Web.

WEAKNESSES: For the beginning user or people who struggle with structured programming languages, producing custom reports will present a challenge. For those who need more programming help, SAS provides great training and documentation via the Internet.

SELECTION CRITERIA: As our needs grew, we shifted from our previous software to SAS for its technical advantages. Many client data sets measure in the gigabytes, and we discovered that SAS allowed us to efficiently manipulate the data and build the complex mathematical models we need. Indeed, SAS' strong analytics, which enable analysts to transform data into information to drive business decisions, were the primary determining factor. Also important was SAS' ability to tap into multiple data sources and bring that data into one central location.

DELIVERABLES: We primarily rely on SAS/ETS to help us build statistical models, find the model that best describes the data, and evaluate the models' validity and robustness. SAS makes it easy to import that information into the typical office software that we use to communicate to clients, as well as to create standalone applications that clients can use to do their own "what if" simulations at their desks, rather than relying on us to answer every question.

VENDOR SUPPORT: In those few cases where we required additional assistance or information, SAS has been extremely responsive. Support is always available through the SAS hotline or via the Web.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is excellent. We use both the hard-copy and online versions of the documentation manuals. However, we have also sent people to the SAS classes to take advantage of the great training its staff provides.

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