Commentary

2019 'Erwin Ephron Award' Winner: Leslie Wood

Leslie Wood, Chief Research Officer, Nielsen Catalina Solutions, has been announced as the winner of the 2019 ARF Erwin Ephron Demystification Award.

She joins an elite group of past winners — Bill Harvey, David Poltrack, Irwin Gotlieb, Jim Spaeth and Gian Fulgoni — that reflect the brilliance, qualities and legacy of Erwin Ephron, who passed away in October 2013.

This year’s selection committee included Poltrack and Spaeth.

In learning of her selection, Wood reflected on her association with Erwin over many years.

“The biggest lesson Erwin taught me was that research's value comes from being used, understood and incorporated into decision-making. He was a master at taking complex ideas and distilling them into concepts that were easily grasped and used.”

Ephron regularly challenged conventional thinking and left an enviable legacy. Wood has followed in his footsteps.

In nominating Wood, Poltrack offered a synopsis of her outstanding career achievements and involvement in leading edge initiatives. “Over the past 30-plus years, Leslie has been a pioneer in the development of single-source measurement and results-based advertising
evaluation.

"In addition to her work for numerous top advertiser and media company clients, she was a major contributor to the development of the early BehaviorScan, ScanAmerica and Project Apollo initiatives. More recently, her work for Nielsen Catalina Solutions has made them the leader in the development of ROI-based media campaign measurement. Leslie is active in the major industry research organizations and a regular speaker and panelists at major industry events.”

Wood and I worked together on several ground-breaking projects, including the earliest data fusions and subsequently on Project Apollo and adding unique dimension to it.

Regarding Wood's more recent work, Poltrack underlined: “She has presented provocative papers on purchase-occasion-based media planning and the long-term ROAS for television advertising, which was chosen as the best [Journal of Advertising Research] paper
for 2015.”

Wood is currently working on a large-scale, multi-client (including major traditional media companies, major advertisers and digital publishers) project on targeting. Like much of her work, it will likely challenge our conventions. As Artie Bulgrin, a former chairman of the ARF and member of the judging committee, noted: “Leslie has been a consistent and passionate presence in industry thought leadership for many years, most well known for her seminal work on the long-term effects of advertising.”

She extended that work to examine wear-out and most recently the contribution of creative versus media in terms of relative effectiveness contributions, which wowed the audience at the ARF's Audience x Science Conference.

In looking back, Wood reflected on what drives her. “My core interest has been to understand how advertising works. I learned from Erwin the value in taking ideas out into the world in a way that people could understand the concept and applicability right from the
beginning. The research that supported Recency was first done under my direction.

"Erwin saw the value of the work and took it out into the world. I had rich insights before and certainly since — but had not understood the importance of taking those ideas and sharing them in a way that large swaths of the industry could understand and use. His genius was in simplifying a concept down to its essence and sharing it broadly. I have worked hard to learn how to do this — and sometimes succeed.”

For someone whose earliest breakthrough was working with the legendary Ted Bates media research chief Walter Reichel, Leslie has come a long way. They came up with the "5% solution" for budgeting cable TV and the rest, as they say, is history.

Wood will be presented with this prestigious award at the ARF’s Audience x Science Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City which runs April 15-16 at a special luncheon.

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