After 'Hits and Misses,' NielsenConnect Is Shuttered

Jon Mandel Leaves Research Company After 2 Years as CEO

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Jon Mandel, the one-time Grey and MediaCom honcho who raised eyebrows by taking a job at Nielsen Co. to help marketers mesh data, has left his post at the research company.

Jon Mandel
Jon Mandel
Mr. Mandel, in an interview, said he had departed Nielsen at "the end of January, beginning of February," and had been "gone for a week or so."

He added: "The things they had are better served by other people they have," and said he preferred to have more of a central role with clients when it came to helping devise marketing and strategy.

Mr. Mandel's departure from Nielsen was first reported by MediaPost.

Mr. Mandel was hired in November of 2006 to be CEO of NielsenConnect, a newly formed unit aimed at helping advertisers more accurately track the consumer from seeing a commercial or promotion to actually making a purchase based on the pitch. Tracing such a path has long been a holy grail for advertisers, but it's not clear that any of the machinery various parties assemble to do so will function.

Project Apollo, an effort by Nielsen and Arbitron to use a portable electronic device to track consumers' exposure to commercials and media and then their subsequent purchase behavior that had backing from major marketers such as Procter & Gamble, was scrapped in February 2008. The companies cited an inability to secure sufficient commitments from clients.

More recently, Nielsen said it was suspending an effort known as Prism that was designed help clients track the effectiveness of in-store promotional efforts. Walmart Stores had ended its support of the initiative in December 2008.

"We fully expected NielsenConnect would have hits and misses, and as the hits matured, they would be transitioned into broader business units," a Nielsen spokesman said in a prepared statement. "Nielsen Connect has run its course -- and the hits are being transitioned into businesses." The company said Mr. Mandel had agreed to run the operation for a two-year period.

At Nielsen, Mr. Mandel had spearheaded an effort to mesh data from Nielsen's well-known ratings information with consumer behavior. His theory was that the technique, known among researchers as "fusion," would allow, for example, a soda marketer to determine which media properties best attract Hispanic men who prefer lemon-lime beverages or let a movie studio figure out the media vehicle most likely to draw consumers who like to see films on an opening weekend.

"The principles upon which Connect was founded are now a part of our entire company and we're focused on them every day," the spokesman said.

Mr. Mandel is known in the ad and media industries as an outspoken executive who doesn't always tow the party line. After starting at Grey Advertising in 1974, he moved up the chain of command in the world of media buying, eventually building MediaCom when it was part of Grey Global Group, then joining WPP's large Group M consortium as chief of strategic solutions after WPP purchased Grey in 2005. Along the way, he became famous for his skeptical view toward media hype. While being profiled by USA Today during TV-network upfront presentations in 1998, he dismissed part of ABC's fall schedule as "yesterday's enchiladas" and told a reporter that "the biggest mistake these guys can make is to overpromise."

Mr. Mandel seemed sanguine about his future. "I'm willing to consider being on the agency side again although the things that I'm talking about [at present] happen to be media companies, just because that's who called," he said.

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