Historically, an actuary would be the last person Hollywood would turn to for advice. But data junkies are the new A-listers, and the Ryan Gosling of the algorithmic set is Networked Insights. "Instead of just measuring what we did, we can pre-inform a gut feeling with empirical data," says founder Dan Neely, who is, yes, an actuary by training. By any measure, 2011 was a big year for the Chicago-based analytics firm. Highlights:
It now plans $5 billion of media spending for advertisers—sometimes on shows with poor Nielsen ratings, but where Neely's data finds other value.
MTV hired NI to monitor what the social web was saying about its new show Teen Wolf and adjusted its marketing campaign accordingly. (Turns out viewers liked character relationships more than horror lore.)
NI insight led client Kraft to develop Oscar Meyer Select, its new nitrate- and nitrite-free hot-dog brand. "It's a new source of consumer information that wasn't available to us three years ago," says Kraft's Mike Judge.
NI raised $20 million from Goldman Sachs and was profitable for its second year in a row, with 500% year-over-year revenue growth. That's some good data.