The deal was precipitated by WPP's acquisition of London-based TNS, which required it to divest of its 50% stake in rival AGBNielsen Media Research. Nielsen's acquisition of the rest of those assets is ironic, because AGB once was seen as a major rival of Nielsen's when it tried and failed to launch a competing TV audience measurement service based on then state-of-the-art people meter technology in the 1980s. The AGB move prompted Nielsen to embrace and deploy people meters and to begin to phase out its old-fashioned paper diary measurement system.
The result of the deal is that Nielsen will have an even more powerful global footprint in media audience measurement, and WPP will be free to compete more aggressively with Nielsen in all the markets in which it operates, including a burgeoning digital set-top TV measurement system in the U.S.
The new WPP assets will be held by WPP's Kantar Group, but the addition of SRDS is particularly interesting for WPP's GroupM media planning and buying units. GroupM global chief Irwin Gotlieb has long prided himself and positioned his operating units around superior and proprietary market intelligence and analytical systems that ostensibly give them an edge vs. the rest of the marketplace.
Nielsen, meanwhile, hinted that other strategic changes were coming when it announced reorganization on Monday that named long-time media research chief Susan Whiting vice chairman of the company, and expanded role as part of a newly created "Office of the CEO" (David Calhoun) to "work closely with Nielsen's clients and other important stakeholders around the world."
As part of that reorganization, long-time Nielsen media executive Dave Thomas was named head of the company's global media client services from president-media client services in the U.S.
In a letter sent to Nielsen customers today, Thomas noted, "With this acquisition, Nielsen will now be the provider of television measurement in 30 countries representing about three-quarters of the world's television advertising spending."
Nielsen also seemed to pave the way to focus its resources in other areas Friday when it announced the closure of its out-of-home TV measurement venture with IMMI.