POV: Nielsen Acquires eXelate

Mindshare Point of View


Nielsen acquired data-management technology platform and exchange eXelate earlier this year for a reported $200m. The deal is a major foray into the programmatic arena for TV-centric researcher Nielsen, which has been looking for ways to accelerate its digital audience intelligence. Now the dust has settled, we can look at the possible benefits and the reasons behind the deal.

Details and Implications

Outside of OCR, Nielsen has CPG purchase data and TV viewing data in the usual patchwork of markets, mostly at small scale, but TV measurement ‘panels’ are getting bigger as they add set-top box and smart TV data, so there’s probably some of that in there too. Nielsen also has some measurement of broadcaster VOD in-browser and in-app. So in terms of ‘identity keys’ – identical information held by two different data owners that can be used to identify people - they have address, email address and cookies at small to mid-scale for TV exposure and CPG purchase, and cookies and mobile device IDs at mid-scale via VOD TV exposure. 

Outside of media audience measurement, Nielsen also has a range of consumer data sources that it connects to, which it is often able to secure through its scale and perceived independence.

eXelate is more in the iBehaviour/Datalogix online/offline data co-op mould than a pure online cookie pool, and as such it also has reasonable amounts of good quality profile information (income, address-based information), some offline purchasing information for bigger ticket items (credit card data), and a good spread of identity keys at large scale that it can allow people to access its data through: cookie, email address and, perhaps most tantalizing of all, mid-scale mobile device ID. Read here for more on that.


Taken together, that's a good fit between the two companies, and gives Nielsen: media exposure for online and TV, potentially with cross-device identity to give a decent journey view; sales measurement for CPG and some big ticket items and the ability to target using profile information on both mobile and PC, depending on what you learn works best from the sales-driver modelling.

Whether having a foot in media execution will be seen to compromise Nielsen’s independence remains to be seen. It was already possible before the deal to buy Nielsen CPG panel audiences via eXelate and then measure their performance back at the panel, but the paranoid might worry that having both of those in one company is too close to marking your own homework.

Then of course there is the worry about Facebook being Nielsen’s sugar daddy for Digital Ad Ratings’ (formerly known as OCR) – Facebook effectively powers this, and as we’ve just seen with Twitter withdrawing the data firehose from third parties, the gift of data from large Internet platforms can sometimes resemble a wooden horse.