Nielsen Breaks Ad Campaign to Show It's More Than You Think

Market Research Giant Positions Itself as Cutting-Edge Data Science Provider

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Certainly most people in marketing have an idea what Nielsen is all about. But those ideas don't necessarily match how Nielsen sees itself -- or reality. So Earth's biggest market-research company is launching an ad campaign to fix that.

"The science behind what's next" is the tagline for the multi-million-dollar, multi-year campaign launching today from Interpublic's Weber Shandwick and MRM McCann for the behemoth with more than $6 billion in global revenue.

Among other things, Nielsen provides measurement currencies that much of the global media world uses to do business. But the campaign aims to position it as more, including a cutting-edge data-science company.

As might be expected, Nielsen did some research beforehand. "It became really clear to us that the external perception of the company didn't match what we knew to be true," said Chief Communications Officer Laura Nelson. Often that perception was that "we were the TV ratings company," she said, or in India, where the primary focus is on survey research, that Nielsen only does that. "People's perceptions of Nielsen were in some cases decades old."

This is despite such things as Nielsen's 2015 acquisition of eXelate, an aggregator and distributor of online data to power programmatic digital ad buys, or its backing an incubator in Israel that invests in early-stage data-science startups. Some people on the media side of the industry have no idea of Nielsen's immense role in measuring and analyzing package-goods or other retail sales, she said. And the company is also a major player in online audience measurement – and efforts to provide total audience measurement across media.

That immensity also helps make Nielsen a lightning rod for controversy – particularly involving media companies that get measured and the agency and marketer executives who rely on those measurements. Such was the case earlier this month when Nielsen gave in to TV network concerns over how it measures video content across platforms and would allow them to pick which data is shared with agencies.

Can advertising compete with the drumbeat of news coverage?

Ms. Nelson believes it can, in part by explaining the breadth of a company that's in 106 countries accounting for 85% of global ad spending.

"It's really about communicating the whole company," she said. "What can happen is when you get into a market that has issues around one thing or another, there's no basis of understanding who we are, and you get caught up talking about some things that define the whole company, and that's not proper and right."

The first wave of the digital campaign includes an overhaul of the Nielsen website, a video overview of all the things the company measures and analyzes, and features on people behind the scenes, such as Chief Engineer Arun Ramaswamy.

It's the start of a sustained multi-year effort, said Greg Daniel, Nielsen chief digital and enterprise marketing officer. And the company will rely on the Nielsen Marketing Cloud to power a programmatic media buy. It also will include native content syndication, print and out-of-home, starting in the U.S. and expanding globally.

The company that works for hundreds of others to analyze their marketing performance will "have lots of KPIs [key performance indicators] as you might imagine across everything from brand perception to revenue," Ms. Nelson said.

The campaign will rely on "paid, owned and earned" media, with Weber Shandwick and MRM McCann chosen to handle it, she said, "because they worked together as if they were one firm."