AC Nielsen’s purchase of MMS last week created a monopoly in the
media-tracking business. Usually this would be a cause for concern, but
in this case it might just be a cause for celebration.
It is not the first time one company has had something of a monopoly in
this market. At the start of this decade, the Register Meal division of
Nielsen was pretty much the only cross-media supplier of ad expenditure
information in the UK. Then along came a pretender to the throne in the
form of Media Monitoring Services.
MMS, as it quickly became known, was a family business run with a 90s
service ethic, and a policy of continuously expanding its coverage of
media sectors. It was also credited with having great systems and good
prices and soon it usurped the Nielsen throne.
Last week, however, came the twist in the tale when Nielsen decided to
buy its burgeoning rival.
The move makes complete sense for both parties, according to Steven
Yung, president of AC Nielsen Media International. ’Between us we will
have a very impressive list of clients including many blue chips and 100
per cent of the major media players,’ he says. ’MMS is the leader in the
UK, and we get their expertise and coverage, while we have the
international presence which MMS wants. This is the most logical way to
serve our clients.’ Charles Fulton, managing director at MMS, agrees:
’We’ve excelled in client service, they bring an international presence
to the party.’ But they would say that, wouldn’t they?
So what about the monopolistic aspect of the deal? Both Yung and Fulton
deny they will suddenly start ramping up prices, and both refer to the
fact that it is a ’very competitive market’. Exactly where their
competition will come from is not clear, however.
Jim Kite, research director at Universal McCann, is convinced people
will worry about the monopoly aspect. ’On a micro level this is a move
from free market to monopoly and a lot of people won’t be too happy
But Kite acknowledges that the merger also has enormous potential to
benefit the industry. ’Now they are married we have one source of data,
and that is important. Yes, it could lead to greater comparisons of
media - although we have to be very cautious about this - and most
importantly, it will make it easier to compare trends across Europe. MMS
only really covered the UK, but our clients like Nestle, Motorola and
General Motors want to know about the whole of Europe.’
Tim Lucas, corporate development director at the National Magazine
Company, says there are other potential benefits for the media salesman.
’Much work has been done on proof of performance (proving that
advertising has a direct effect on sales), but the more work in this
area, the better.
Given Nielsen’s expertise in consumer trend tracking and MMS’s expertise
in media tracking, this merger may lead to more proof of performance
Lucas and Kite are typical of those affected by this merger. Although
they are concerned about the monopoly, their fears are tempered by their
optimism. A single supplier in this market should be a very good
Over to you, Steven and Charles.