NEWS ANALYSIS: Optimism overcomes fears of a media-tracking monopoly. The marriage of two data giants receives a cautious welcome

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.

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

about that.’



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

projects.’



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

thing.



Over to you, Steven and Charles.



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