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Truth, Trust and the Future of Nielsen

4 minute read | December 2018

Nielsen's CEO, David Kenny
David Kenny, CEO, Nielsen

Truth and trust. That’s what a great business and a great business ecosystem need to survive and thrive in today’s fast-moving, data-hungry world. But data has its own vagaries—too much can be confusing. It can be dirty, and therefore unusable. It can live in a silo and not relate to anything around it. And the big one: it can be misused. Every day, consumers add more and more data points into this equation. All of this data, clean or dirty, can get in the way of making swift, impactful business decisions.

In the marketing ecosystem, media buyers are clear on one thing—they want transparency. They want to finally understand just how effective their efforts are and how they can improve upon them. More clarity ultimately means more trust that they are getting exactly what they paid for.

The consumers who provide this data—with every click, every like and every transaction—also want to know that when they engage in any buying behavior, they are protected. In fact, at no other point in history has the consumer been more aware, curious and concerned about how data about them is being captured and used.

With data comes responsibilities. A responsibility to protect the consumer. A responsibility to protect the marketing ecosystem and a responsibility to manage it all with integrity and transparency.

So, why Nielsen? Nielsen has many advantages built into its model—it uses truly representative panels to scrub big, unwieldy data sets and make them useful and manageable. An essential cornerstone to our strategy is Nielsen’s investment in consumer panels. These are panels in both the media and fast-moving consumer goods sides of our business where people allow us into their homes to enable first-hand measurement on an ongoing basis. And they do this all over the world. In my mind, this proximity to the consumer, enabled by the trust they have in our brand, is priceless.

These panels allow for a true understanding of, not just who is transacting but oftentimes, when, why, where and how much. They can de-duplicate video and audio audiences so our clients know the difference between a single binge watcher and a family of devotees gathered in the living room watching their favorite programs. The tools to understand who made a purchase and how they arrived at the decision to buy that product, in a specific way, at a specific time, are of critical importance.

One other important aspect of our panels—they stay on the right side of consumer privacy. We understand that not everybody wants everything to be known about them; and that brands need to make good decisions without inadvertently crossing boundaries. Tougher restrictions on privacy are fine with us; it’s the right thing to do. Nielsen has always worked hard to gain the explicit agreement of consumers in our panels.

Companies of every type and size have data. Those streams are ever expanding and rarely talk to each other. That’s a fact. But the other reality is that not all of this big data can be converted into useful data. At Nielsen, we know that a key element to useful data is labeling—we have the most thoroughly labeled data in media and retail. And detailed, verified labeling means that data is more easily adapted to machine learning and artificial intelligence. And finally, we understand how to use it, how to clean it, how to merge it with other data sets and how to maximize great data science.

Nielsen’s commitment to high-quality, science-backed data is an essential service to the marketplace. The ability to provide useful data, independent of bias towards buyer or seller, will only become more crucial to the marketplace.

When we marry this gold standard consumer panel data to tracking and behavioral data and any number of other context-building data sets, and then apply a unique mix of human and machine analysis, with real data scientists and algorithms, the true magic begins. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will unlock even more value for us and for our clients.

Long before I was considering the move to Nielsen, I was a client and a partner. It was just as clear to me then that the way the company works and its core principles of independence, integrity and consumer focus provide confidence to the marketplace.

At Nielsen, technology, science and data come together with a human element. There is still a ton of potential to be unlocked here, and our team is working hard to unlock more and more potential every day. The best years of Nielsen are in the future.

This article was originally published by David Kenny on LinkedIn