The Forrester Wave: US Search Marketing Agencies

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Making Leaders Successful Every Day
January 31, 2011
The Forrester Wave™: US Search
Marketing Agencies, Q1 2011
by Shar VanBoskirk
for Interactive Marketing Professionals
© 2011 Forrester Research, Inc. All rights reserved. Forrester, Forrester Wave, RoleView, Technographics, TechRankings, and Total Economic
Impact are trademarks of Forrester Research, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Reproduction or sharing of this
content in any form without prior written permission is strictly prohibited. To purchase reprints of this document, please email clientsupport@
forrester.com. For additional reproduction and usage information, see Forrester’s Citation Policy located at www.forrester.com. Information is
based on best available resources. Opinions reflect judgment at the time and are subject to change.
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
ExEcUTI VE SUMMAry
Forrester’s 60-criteria evaluation of search marketing vendors scores iCrossing the best because of its
forecast-based approach to campaign planning, qualitative and quantitative research skills, experience
with emerging media, and clear strategic vision. 360i — a repeat Leader — follows closely due to its
excellence at social media strategy, program development, and optimizing “off-site” assets — like videos
or blog content. And Impaqt bests larger rivals with near-perfect scores on its current offering. Strong
Performers have varied strengths. Rosetta’s account team structure supports integrated marketing, while
Performics matches performance marketers because of its legacy and pay-for-performance pricing.
iProspect has a vast international footprint. Razorfish has great ideas but poor SEO execution. And
Covario is best for SEO automation. The Search Agency lands as a Contender due to its limited scope for
enterprise-level solutions.
TABlE oF conTEnTS
Search Marketing Will Evolve Beyond Search
Engines
Search Marketing Agency Evaluation Overview
We Evaluated Agencies With Paid Search And
SEo roots
The Evaluation considers Three Dimensions
Search Agencies Debut Multichannel Support
Vendor Profiles
leaders
Strong Performers
contenders
Supplemental Material
noTES & rESoUrcES
Forrester conducted vendor evaluations in
october 2010 and interviewed 36 vendor
and user companies, including 360i, covario,
icrossing, Impaqt, iProspect, Performics,
razorfish, rosetta, and The Search Agency.
Related Research Documents
“The Future of Search Marketing”
August 11, 2010
“US Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2009 To 2014”
July 6, 2009
“The Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing
Agencies, Q1 2009”
January 21, 2009
January 31, 2011
The Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing Agencies,
Q1 2011
icrossing Takes Top Honors, With 360i And Impaqt close Behind
by Shar VanBoskirk
with nate Elliott, Kate van Geldern, and Angie Polanco
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2
6
7
9
©
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction ProhibitedJanuary 31, 2011
The Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing Agencies, Q1 2011
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
2
SEARch MARkEting Will EVOlVE BEyOnD SEARch EnginES
After five years of basically unchanged search engine interfaces and ad formats, search marketing
is entering a new era. The future of search marketing will be a complex one where marketers use
multiple media — not just search engines — to help users find products or brands.
1
Why?
·
Searchers will have more ways to look for more content. Just 61% of consumers rely on
traditional search engines to find websites today, compared with 83% in 2004.
2
This trend
will continue as users rely increasingly on content, applications, or peer recommendations in
addition to search engines to find what they need.
·
Search will converge with other online media. Search results today are chock-full of user-
generated content, images, and video. And social networks and review sites include search-
like sponsored listings. This convergence blurs user expectations for what constitutes a search
versus a social or display experience. And it makes skills typical to search marketing — like bid
optimization and audience targeting — critical for social and display ad buying as well.
3
·
Multidevice searching will proliferate. The Splinternet will introduce users to a host of new
non-PC devices — like smartphones, interactive television, or eReaders — with connected
content to search. But search on these devices won’t work like the traditional Google toolbar
as new device interfaces rely on touchscreens or remote controls for input and apps, menus, or
icons to filter and deliver content.
4
SEARch MARkEting AgEncy EVAluAtiOn OVERViEW
With search marketing broadening to include other media, we had to ask ourselves: Are search
agencies still appropriate partners for clients seeking search marketing help? We concluded that
search agencies are an apposite option in almost every search marketing situation because:
·
Most marketers still need paid search and SEO expertise. Let’s face it, even though search
marketing has a heady and complex outlook, most marketers today still seek help with the
basics. And with search marketing accounting for the majority of interactive marketers’ budgets,
marketers want a partner proficient in search in order to manage that money wisely.
5
·
Advanced search marketing still requires specialized support. Today, the best search
marketing partners are not generalist agencies, but rather experts that know search technologies,
search engine peccadilloes, and hundreds of program best practices. As search programs evolve
to include mobile devices, biddable display media, and advanced analytics, marketers will
still prefer specialists. As one enterprise marketer explains, “Buying [biddable display] is very
complicated. You need people with a technology, engineering, and mathematics background.
Our brand agency had a fit when I said I wanted to buy this way.”
©
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction Prohibited January 31, 2011
The Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing Agencies, Q1 2011
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
3
·
Standalone technologies don’t provide comprehensive support. Maturing SEO automation tools
like SEOmoz and standalone bid platforms like Kenshoo provide helpful program management
utilities that are often lower cost than agency support. But they work best when leveraged by
agencies or strong internal search resources that provide complementary strategy, campaign
development, or research services that are not available through a tech-only solution. Please stay
tuned for our upcoming research that profiles SEO and paid search automation technologies.
We Evaluated Agencies With Paid Search And SEO Roots
To identify those firms that are best equipped to help marketers into the future of search marketing,
we screened 100 agencies and technology solutions. From this pool we selected nine agencies —
several of which we had not evaluated previously — that best match the search marketing services
that our clients request. Our evaluation included 360i, Covario, iCrossing, Impaqt, iProspect,
Performics, Razorfish, Rosetta, and The Search Agency because they (see Figure 1):
·
Are US-based. We did appraise vendor global capabilities as part of this research. And we have
follow-on research to address the needs of international search marketers in the works. But
to manage the scope of this study, we included American vendors only. Agencies like British
Columbia-based Mediative or the UK’s Steak were not eligible.
6
·
Provide a blend of paid search and SEO. Forrester continues to believe that integrating SEO and
paid search efforts is easiest when done through a single agency partner. So as we have done in
the past, we filtered for firms that provide a balance of paid search and SEO services. Firms that
get the bulk of their search business from just SEO — like Roundarch — or just paid search —
like Vantage Media — did not qualify.
·
Support enterprise clients. We looked for firms dedicated to serving the same customers
Forrester does: businesses with more than $1 billion in revenues. This means companies focused
on the SMB or midmarket — like HubSpot or Clickable — were not eligible. We also looked for
established firms with enough financial solvencies to be secure options for large marketers.
©
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction ProhibitedJanuary 31, 2011
The Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing Agencies, Q1 2011
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
4
Figure 1 Evaluated Vendors: Vendor Information And Selection criteria
Source: Forrester Research, Inc.
Vendor
360i
Covario
iCrossing
Impaqt
iProspect
Performics
Razorfish
Rosetta
The Search Agency
Search marketing
revenue (2009)
$49 million
$15 million*
$100 million*
$19 million
$95 million
$50 million*
$33 million
$14 million
$20 million*
Enterprise-level
clients
81%
85%
81%
71%
54%
50%
75%
96%
42%
Percent of clients
using vendor for both
paid search and SEO
40%
14%
30%
27%
50%
30%
62%
44%
25%
Date evaluated
October 2010
October 2010
October 2010
October 2010
October 2010
October 2010
October 2010
October 2010
October 2010
Vendor qualification criteria
Revenue for the vendor’s search business for the 12 months prior to the start of the study (September
2009 to September 2010) was greater than $20 million.
Percent of the vendor’s clients served that are enterprise level ($1B+) is greater than 40%.
The vendor supports 25% of clients or more for both paid search and SEO or the vendor works with more
than 30% of clients for paid search only and SEO only services.
*The vendor cannot publicly disclose revenues. This is Forrester’s estimate of the vendor’s 2009 search revenue.
the Evaluation considers three Dimensions
Our evaluation was influenced most significantly by recent conversations we had with marketers
about the five-year outlook for search marketing. We also leveraged past research, forecast data, and
vendor and expert interviews to develop the 60 criteria we used to review vendors (see Figure 2):
·
Current offering. As with former Search Marketing Agency Wave™ evaluations, this study
also assessed vendors’ paid search and SEO technologies, processes, and services. This time we
also evaluated vendors’ capabilities for helping marketers “get found” across new media. This
includes their tools to manage search for branding rather than pure direct response goals; their
ability to develop and support international search programs; and their multichannel, mobile,
local, and social media aptitudes.
©
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction Prohibited January 31, 2011
The Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing Agencies, Q1 2011
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
5
·
Strategy. We assessed how well suited vendor management teams, executive visions,
development road maps, and global strategies are to the future needs of search marketers.
·
Market presence. Finally, we also examined the firms’ overall size and position in the market
based on their revenues from search marketing; employee tenure and training; and the volume,
retention, and satisfaction of their customers.
Figure 2 Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing Agencies, Q1 ’11
Source: Forrester Research, Inc.
Go online to download
the Forrester Wave tool
for more detailed product
evaluations, feature
comparisons, and
customizable rankings.
Risky
Bets Contenders Leaders
Strong
Performers
Strategy Weak Strong
Current
offering
Weak
Strong
Market presence
360i
iCrossing
Razorfish
Impaqt
iProspect
Performics
Rosetta
The Search Agency
Covario
©
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction ProhibitedJanuary 31, 2011
The Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing Agencies, Q1 2011
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
6
Figure 2 Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing Agencies, Q1 ’11 (cont.)
Source: Forrester Research, Inc.
360i
Covario
iCrossing
Impaqt
iProspect
Performics
Razorfish
CURRENT OFFERING
Vendor description
Campaign planning
Branding perspective
Customer analysis
Paid search
SEO
Mobile search
Social media
Local search
Analysis and reporting
Services and support
Globalization
Cost
STRATEGY
Strength of management team
Executive vision
Development road map
Global strategy
MARKET PRESENCE
Search marketing services revenue
Company
Customers
Forrester’s
Weighting
50%
0%
5%
10%
5%
20%
20%
5%
5%
5%
10%
5%
10%
0%
50%
40%
40%
10%
10%
0%
33%
33%
34%
3.86
0.00
5.00
5.00
5.00
4.12
4.15
1.00
5.00
3.00
3.80
3.50
2.00
0.00
4.20
5.00
4.00
1.00
5.00
2.78
3.00
2.65
2.70
2.72
0.00
5.00
3.00
1.00
1.67
4.15
1.00
3.00
3.00
3.80
1.00
1.80
0.00
2.90
3.00
3.00
5.00
0.00
1.67
1.00
1.95
2.05
3.94
0.00
5.00
1.00
5.00
4.27
4.20
5.00
5.00
3.00
3.80
4.00
4.20
0.00
4.20
3.00
5.00
5.00
5.00
4.56
5.00
5.00
3.70
4.06
0.00
3.00
5.00
3.00
4.40
4.40
3.00
3.00
5.00
5.00
5.00
2.00
0.00
3.70
5.00
3.00
5.00
0.00
2.59
1.00
3.60
3.15
3.17
0.00
3.00
1.00
3.00
3.74
2.70
5.00
3.00
5.00
2.20
3.00
4.60
0.00
3.00
3.00
2.00
5.00
5.00
4.49
5.00
5.00
3.50
2.53
0.00
5.00
3.00
3.00
2.19
2.55
1.00
1.00
1.00
1.00
3.00
4.80
0.00
4.00
3.00
5.00
5.00
3.00
3.19
3.00
4.05
2.55
3.20
0.00
3.00
3.00
5.00
2.90
2.75
5.00
1.00
5.00
3.00
4.50
3.00
0.00
2.50
3.00
3.00
1.00
0.00
3.34
2.00
3.95
4.05
Rosetta
The Search
Agency
2.78
0.00
3.00
1.00
5.00
2.40
2.65
3.00
5.00
3.00
5.00
3.50
0.40
0.00
3.80
5.00
4.00
1.00
1.00
2.84
1.00
3.60
3.90
2.60
0.00
5.00
1.00
0.00
2.83
3.05
3.00
3.00
5.00
2.60
2.50
1.40
0.00
1.30
1.00
2.00
0.00
1.00
1.90
2.00
1.95
1.75
All scores are based on a scale of 0 (weak) to 5 (strong).
SEARch AgEnciES DEBut MultichAnnEl SuPPORt
This year’s evaluation found everyone talking about, and some agencies actually expanding, their core
search services to include related social media, mobile marketing, and display media capabilities.
Drilling into how these agencies apply search marketing smarts to new media options revealed:
·
iCrossing, 360i, and Impaqt to be the best. iCrossing secures the top spot in our study this year
for its forecast-based approach to campaign planning, its qualitative and quantitative research
skills, its breadth of social and mobile experience, and its clear strategic vision. In keeping with
years past, 360i’s social media capabilities are best-in-class. It is also tops at optimizing “off-site”
assets — like videos or blog content. And it automates scenario models to inform enterprise,
©
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction Prohibited January 31, 2011
The Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing Agencies, Q1 2011
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
7
multichannel, and global bid management. Impaqt upsets its larger rivals with near-perfect
scores on its current offering. Particularly impressive are Impaqt’s tools for bidding across
a portfolio of multiple media and its proprietary tools for supporting brand advertisers and
international SEO programs.
·
Rosetta, Performics, and iProspect take a distant second. Trailing the leaders by a significant
margin, newcomer Rosetta is first of a pack of Strong Performers due in large part to its use of
attribution specialist ClearSaleing for multichannel bid management and reporting. We also
like Rosetta’s customer research experience and that it structures search staff into account teams
alongside other functional specialists for more integrated planning. Performics follows next
because of the resiliency of its staff and breadth of international support. Of concern, though,
is Performics’ poor scores for mobile, social, and local search. iProspect has strong support for
global clients but its tools lack multichannel automated optimization and its strategic vision
does not match with its core competencies.
·
Razorfish and Covario round out the Strong Performers. We find Razorfish a clever and well-
organized search practice. But its current offering, particularly its SEO capabilities fall short of
competitors’. Covario has Leader-level SEO competencies, but its services are the poorest in the
study.
·
The Search Agency finishes last. Underdog The Search Agency couldn’t keep pace with the more
established firms we evaluated. Its proprietary search management platform can optimize against
any on- or offline inputs including point-of-sale data. But that isn’t enough to compensate for its
lack of research and global bid management support or its muddled strategic vision.
Please note: This evaluation of search marketing agencies is based on the criteria we deem to be
most critical to the market at this time. It is a starting point only. We encourage readers to view
detailed product evaluations and adapt the criteria weightings to fit their individual needs through
the Forrester Wave Excel-based vendor comparison tool.
VEnDOR PROFilES
Here are high-level snapshots of what capabilities ranked each vendor in its current position in this
Forrester Wave evaluation. Detailed scorecards are available in the spreadsheet behind Figure 2.
leaders
·
iCrossing. Consistently a formidable competitor in this evaluation, this is iCrossing’s first
time in first place. The company has best-in-class campaign planning and customer research
capabilities, as well as strong paid search and SEO offerings. But what sets this vendor apart
is its expertise with emerging media and its clear mission statement to “build brands that are
visible, useful, usable, desirable, and engaged.” It aligns content, data, and production resources
©
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction ProhibitedJanuary 31, 2011
The Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing Agencies, Q1 2011
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
8
from its parent Hearst, with internal research, user experience, analytics and creative teams, and
search management and optimization technology to make good on this mission. Any marketer
will find this agency a sure bet.
·
360i. This firm is also a steady Leader in our evaluations due to its robust proprietary
technologies. This year’s study finds 360i a solid choice for enterprise marketers looking for one
firm to manage both its search marketing and social media efforts. 360i can manage bids across
a portfolio of multiple media and has a sizable and experienced social media team. And brand
advertisers will love the tools it uses to optimize off-site assets for natural search results.
·
Impaqt. In the biggest upset of the study, the smallest vendor we evaluated — Impaqt —
bests six larger competitors to secure third place in our evaluation. This firm boasts the best
current offering we found with an untouchable adaptive bidding platform, dedicated tools for
automating SEO, and flexible multichannel reporting. Marketers seeking a go-getter agency that
takes a partnership-approach to account management will like Impaqt. Global marketers, don’t
be concerned about the vendor’s lack of international footprint; Impaqt supports international
programs for 60% of its clients through automation and extended site-stays as needed.
Strong Performers
·
Rosetta. Full-service agency Rosetta joins our evaluation with a 100-person search business
that provides an average current offering. Rosetta’s strongest suits are its cross-media bid
optimization and attribution tools provided by its third-party bid management platform:
ClearSaleing. It also has adroit customer analysis and social media skills courtesy of its extended
agency resources. Large American marketers looking to integrate search into a larger site design,
media, or customer management effort will do well with Rosetta. Although don’t expect much
from its SEO process or non-US capabilities. The firm has no international staff or offices.
·
Performics. Performics — the original “performance marketing” firm — was once a specialist
in affiliate marketing as well as search and is still a good option for direct response marketers —
like retailers. Why? The firm provides pay-for-performance paid search and SEO solutions, and
many of its original performance marketing practitioners are still around. Global marketers will
like Performics for its broad international footprint. But stick to search fundamentals with this
agency. Its social media experience is limited to link building and ad buying on social networks.
·
iProspect. Our two-time study leader lands as a Strong Performer this year because its bid
optimization and reporting lack the multichannel automation of leaders’ offerings. We don’t
think big, global marketers will be disappointed with iProspect’s core search capabilities;
the agency has the largest international footprint in the study and still performs well in our
reviews of its client work. But its stretch “to drive measurable success through integrated digital
strategies beyond just search” could disrupt its reputable stability and consistency of delivery.
©
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction Prohibited January 31, 2011
The Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing Agencies, Q1 2011
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
9
·
Razorfish. This vendor’s strength is its ideas. It conducts research studies, publishes columns,
populates a blog and regularly shares ideas-in-progress at industry events. It also has a large
customer insight team and reasonable bid management capability due to its use of Marin
Software. But the vendor falls short on its SEO offering — its weakness in past studies as well.
And its social media experience is limited to buying social network ads and optimizing social
assets for natural results. With these flaws in mind, we’d recommend this agency for paid search
marketers who want to think differently about their search programs but don’t mind some
operational headaches from time to time.
·
Covario. The last of the strong performers, Covario suits marketers seeking a tech-heavy, SEO
partner. Its technologies for auditing sites, valuing needed site changes, and creating SEO-
friendly technology templates for content management systems score well. Less impressive are
the vendor’s customer analysis and paid search capabilities. And the firm’s professional services
score dead last in the study.
contenders
·
The Search Agency. We like this firm’s integrity and work ethic: It appreciates its clients and
works hard to satisfy them. But this firm’s lack of organization and operational sophistication
prevent it from being a worthwhile consideration for most marketers. It has limited experience
managing brand-centric campaigns, no customer insight skills, and limited multichannel and
global program support. Client references indicate that account management lacks structure
and sometimes the firm’s technology interferes with its own productivity.
SuPPlEMEntAl MAtERiAl
Online Resource
The online version of Figure 2 is an Excel-based vendor comparison tool that provides detailed
product evaluations and customizable rankings.
Data Sources used in this Forrester Wave
Forrester used a combination of four data sources to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each
solution:
·
Vendor surveys. Forrester surveyed vendors on their capabilities as they relate to the evaluation
criteria. Once we analyzed the completed vendor surveys, we conducted interviews with each
vendor to gather details of qualifications and product features.
·
Scenario-based demos. Each vendor participated in a 3-hour proof-of-concept call during
which it demonstrated its process and technology against three hypothetical client scenarios
addressing paid search and SEO competitive differentiation, future plans, and visions for the
©
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction ProhibitedJanuary 31, 2011
The Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing Agencies, Q1 2011
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
10
future of search marketing. We used findings from these conversations to validate details shared
in the vendor surveys.
·
Customer reference calls. To validate product and vendor qualifications, we conducted
reference calls with three of each vendor’s current customers, including at least one customer
who works with the vendor for international program support.
·
Reviews of client references’ search marketing results. Each vendor was asked to supply three
references to which they provide both SEO and paid search services. These references then gave
us up to five of their leading keywords. We conducted user reviews of their natural and paid
search results for these keywords using Forrester’s Search Marketing Review Methodology.
7
the Forrester Wave Methodology
We conduct primary research to develop a list of vendors that meet our criteria to be evaluated
in this market. From that initial pool of vendors, we then narrow our final list. We choose these
vendors based on: 1) product fit; 2) customer success; and 3) Forrester client demand. We eliminate
vendors that have limited customer references and products that don’t fit the scope of our evaluation.
After examining past research, user need assessments, and vendor and expert interviews, we develop
the initial evaluation criteria. To evaluate the vendors and their products against our set of criteria, we
gather details of product qualifications through a combination of lab evaluations, questionnaires,
demos, and/or discussions with client references. We send evaluations to the vendors for their review,
and we adjust the evaluations to provide the most accurate view of vendor offerings and strategies.
We set default weightings to reflect our analysis of the needs of large user companies — and/or
other scenarios as outlined in the Forrester Wave document — and then score the vendors based
on a clearly defined scale. These default weightings are intended only as a starting point, and we
encourage readers to adapt the weightings to fit their individual needs through the Excel-based
tool. The final scores generate the graphical depiction of the market based on current offering,
strategy, and market presence. Forrester intends to update vendor evaluations regularly as product
capabilities and vendor strategies evolve.
EnDnOtES
1
We think the forces at work changing how consumers search will compel marketers to think about “search
marketing” outside of SEM and SEO. In fact, we think “search marketing” will become an umbrella term
that applies to using any targeted media to help an advertiser “get found.” See the August 11, 2010, “The
Future Of Search Marketing” report.
2
When asked, “How have you typically found Web sites that you have visited in the past month?” 61% of
adults indicated “search engine results,” compared with 83% who responded with the same answer to the
same question in 2004. See the August 11, 2010, “The Future Of Search Marketing” report.
©
2011, Forrester research, Inc. reproduction Prohibited January 31, 2011
The Forrester Wave™: US Search Marketing Agencies, Q1 2011
For Interactive Marketing Professionals
11
3
Search marketing and display advertising have a natural affinity that makes them good interactive marketing
tools to integrate. See the December 21, 2010, “Align Search And Display For Better Results” report.
4
The Internet is splintering across proprietary platforms like the Apple iPhone and Google Android.
Connected televisions will have their own interactive formats. Even on PCs, social sites like Facebook
shatter the unity of the Web with content behind a password, invisible to search engines. Familiar online
marketing tools like links, search engine optimization (SEO), and analytics are different or missing in these
new environments. See the January 26, 2010, “The Splinternet” report.
5
Search marketing today accounts for nearly 60% of all interactive marketing spend. See the July 6, 2009,
“US Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2009 To 2014” report.
6
Mediative was formerly known as Enquiro. Source: “Yellow Pages Group Launches Mediative: New Digital
Marketing Company Will Deliver Unique Solutions to National Advertisers,” Marketwire, October 26,
2010 (http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/Yellow-Pages-Group-Launches-Mediative-New-Digital-
Marketing-Company-Will-Deliver-Unique-TSX-YLO.UN-1341099.htm).
7
Forrester’s search marketing review is a heuristic evaluation of the user experience of natural and paid
search results. For this study we use a modified version of our standard review. See the January 2, 2008,
“The Search Marketing Review” report.
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Forrester has research centers and sales offices in more than 27 cities
internationally, including Amsterdam; Cambridge, Mass.; Dallas; Dubai;
Foster City, Calif.; Frankfurt; London; Madrid; Sydney; Tel Aviv; and Toronto.