Nielsen, which recently reported $100 million in temporary cost savings related to the COVID-19 pandemic, says those cuts did not explicitly impact its field force, but “included voluntary pay cuts by our leadership team, savings related to 401k and a reduction in corporate travel and expenses,” according to Chief Data and Research Officer Mainak Mazumdar.
"Our field activity never stopped,” he said, adding, “it only changed.”
While Mazumdar did not explicitly state how Nielsen’s field force -- including the recruiting and engineering staff that maintain Nielsen’s panelists -- he said the company continued paying its field team and that even as they were prevented from entering Nielsen panel households due to local, state and federal guidelines, they developed innovative methods to maintain and/or monitor sample households.
He described one of these methods as “proximity visits,” which enabled Nielsen’s field staff to get close to panelists’ households, but they never actually entered them.
During Nielsen's May 6 earnings call with investors and Wall Street analysts, CEO David Kenny disclosed, "We were able to perform most of our field work remotely throughout the pandemic, but CDC and state guidelines prevented us from entering panelists' homes, either to sign up new panelists or maintain existing homes."
Mazumdar was responding to a MediaPost report pointing out the paradox of Nielsen disclosing $100 million in cost savings while its TV industry clients have been complaining that its inability to maintain the quality of its sample during the pandemic contributed to undercounting, which is estimated to be worth at least hundreds of millions of dollars in lost advertising revenue to the TV industry.
A strange explanation, indeed.