Nielsen Takes Controlling Stake In Nielsen Catalina, Doubles Down On Measuring Buying Behavior

Q4Nielsen is increasing its ownership stake in Nielsen Catalina Solutions (NCS) – its joint venture with shopper marketing company Catalina – from 50% to a majority 63.5%.

Nielsen Catalina connects TV viewing and digital ad exposure to in-store buying, which Nielsen claims perfectly aligned with its business strategy.

“Helping clients find the right audiences and prove the ROI of advertising is core to Nielsen’s business,” said Nielsen CEO Mitch Barns during the company’s Q4 earnings call on Thursday. “Having a controlling stake in this joint venture gives us a certain scale advantage as we expand our capabilities to more verticals.”

It’s easy to think of Nielsen as just a big TV ratings company, but hundreds of brands and consumer packaged goods companies pay Nielsen for data and insights about how much product they moved in-store.

That part of the business is called Nielsen “Buy,” and it generated revenue of $879 million in Q4, while “Watch,” its TV ratings and measurement business, banked $745 million.

Nielsen CFO Jamere Jackson noted an uptick in the number of media companies packaging TV ratings data with purchase data from Nielsen Buyer Insights and NCS  last upfront season.

This rise in demand from non-endemic sources is spurring Nielsen’s Total Consumer Measurement initiative, through which Nielsen hopes to develop new ways to measure and prove marketing effectiveness across the multiple ways consumers buy – from subscription ecommerce to traditional in-store transactions.

Nielsen is developing a platform in conjunction called the Connected Buy System, which a Nielsen spokesperson later described as an automated “data exchange” based on machine-learning algorithms.

It’s not an attribution system. Instead, it’s intended to combine data and analytics to help retailers and CPGs improve marketing and merchandising decisions.

Nielsen said its data investments like the data management platform/data exchange eXelate, have opened up new conversations around audience addressability. EXelate’s links to 200 data partners and 100-plus media platforms are one example.

“This is an ecosystem that is as connected as any other,” said Barns, adding that Google has emerged as one of the Watch business’ largest clients. But Google is also a big Digital Ad Ratings partner across DoubleClick products.

“Our Digital Ad Ratings now cover about 85% of total digital ad spend … [and] 2016 will be an investment year for us,” Barns added. “We expect to add a lot of commercial opportunities to go after digital clients.”

Nielsen said other priorities including expanding its cross-screen measurement initiative, Total Audience Measurement, as well as adding new platforms to Nielsen Social Content Ratings, formerly Twitter TV Ratings.

In addition to measuring Twitter engagements, Nielsen recently added support for Facebook and Snapchat, and Barns said Nielsen will add Instagram measurement within the coming months.

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