WPP Group, Nielsen Swap Media Tracking Assets

Deal Facilitates WPP's Acquisition of Taylor Nelson Sofres

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The Nielsen Co. and WPP Group have agreed to trade select assets, in part to facilitate WPP's successful takeover of Taylor Nelson Sofres and to gain the deal's approval by the European Commission. According to a press release, WPP needed to dispose of either its TV audience measurement businesses or that of TNS to conform to regulations.

In today's agreement, WPP gave Nielsen its 50% stake in AGBNielsen Media Research, a joint global venture the firm had made with Nielsen back in 2005. In exchange, WPP received three Nielsen products: SRDS, a provider of media rates and data; PERQ/HCI, which measures advertising in trade journals; and 11% share in parts of IBOPE, a Latin American firm.

TNS's board last month approved WPP's takeover bid.

Global implications
The Nielsen and WPP asset swap will have global implications.

"We will now have sole ownership of the TV rating business in 30 markets that cover 60% of the world's advertising," said Gary Holmes, chief press officer at Nielsen. "It creates an opportunity for us to offer integrated measurement across the globe for TV, internet, mobile and other media that people consume."

The deal also raises some concern, particularly for WPP's assets.

"In order for WPP to sustain credibility in terms of anything that's survey tracking-oriented, they would essentially need to maintain a 'Chinese wall,' so to speak, and keep those entities proprietary and to keep them independent," said Gregory Aston, senior VP-director of competitive intelligence at Havas media agency MPG. But Mr. Aston noted that WPP is probably fully aware of this.

WPP could not immediately be reached for comment.
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