In-Store Media Measurement Heats Up

TNS announced yesterday that it is acquiring Sorensen Associates, bolstering the firm's growing retail research capabilities. With the purchase, TNS is positioning itself as a major competitor to Nielsen In-Store, a newly formed division of Dutch media information giant VNU (now re-branded Nielsen). Financial terms were not disclosed.

According to the In-Store Marketing Institute, in-store media garnered a total $18.6 billion of spending in 2005.

Nielsen In-Store is an extension of research conducted earlier this year by the In-Store Marketing Institute, along with a consortium of major manufacturers, including 3M, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, Miller and Procter & Gamble. The goal of the project was the development of a currency for measuring in-store reach. The group also included major retailers like Wal-Mart, Kroger and Walgreens.

Herb Sorensen, Sorensen's founder and CEO, is remaining with the company as a TNS executive.

Sorensen's main products include PathTracker and video observation, which supplement attitudinal studies--including surveys and questionnaires--with empirical data describing patterns of movement, shopping speed and purchasing speed. Such information can be used by manufacturers and retailers to plan promotional strategies, as well as new store design.

Sorensen's products will be integrated into TNS' global Retail and Shopper Insights practice, including TNS custom operations, which conducts proprietary studies of specific stores and brands, and TNS Worldpanel, which continuously measures certain benchmarks of consumer behavior.

David Lowden, TNS CEO, pitched the expanded service to "large companies that are forming 'shopper insight' groups," noting that "manufacturers are becoming increasingly aware they have little control over the actual act of purchase in-store. This is driving growing demand for information and insight from our clients."

At the same time, major media agencies are setting up their own in-store services. For example, Mediaedge:cia acquired Retail Media Link and relaunched it as MEC Retail in March 2006.

Nielsen In-Store is a component of another new Nielsen service called NielsenConnect, recently launched to give clients a holistic, global view of the effects of many different kinds of media.

NielsenConnect is headed by Madison Avenue veteran Jon Mandel, who is tasked with coordinating the multiple data streams collected by different Nielsen properties and synthesizing them in a meaningful way. The importance of NielsenConnect to VNU is evident in the company's organizational chart; Mandel reports directly to VNU chief executive David Calhoun.

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