Nielsen, Catalina Form Joint Venture

Taking another stab at linking media exposure to product purchase behavior, Nielsen announced Monday (Dec. 14) it formed a 50/50 joint venture with Catalina Marketing. The JV, called Nielsen Catalina Ventures will combine Catalina’s 50-million consumer shopper database with Nielsen’s national TV and online panels to provide TV and online brand ratings.

Mike Nazzaro, formerly senior vp of Nielsen Consumer Panel Services will head up Nielsen Catalina Ventures as chief executive officer. Both companies are expected to contribute data, talent and resources to the company based in Procter & Gamble’s backyard of Cincinnati.

By marrying Catalina’s shopper data with Nielsen’s 45,000 people in its national TV panel and 230,000 online panel, the JV creates the industry’s largest single source database in the double-digit thousands. Nielsen’s 100,000 Homescan consumer panel won’t be used as a media source, but will be integrated with Catalina’s shopper data.

Plans are to offer the first research services for advertisers and agencies in the first half of 2010, ready for use in the upfront TV selling season.

“ROI is the sweet spot in the business. Marketers will be able to buy media against purchase groups and measure the impact of their marketing and media efforts,” Nazzaro said.

Researchers have made several attempts over the years to develop a service that connects consumer media exposure to product purchases. Nielsen gave it a go via a joint venture with Arbitron called Project Apollo, an ambitious single source service that used Arbitron’s portable people meter and Nielsen’s Homescan consumer panel.

Though Project Apollo was forced to shut down because of its high cost, Nielsen didn’t give up, spending the better part of a year working on the JV with Catalina.

“Project Apollo validated the need for this kind of service. The challenge was getting a large enough base to get meaningful numbers in a cost-efficient manner,” said Nazzaro. “I feel good about the penetration of both Catalina and Nielsen. We can build a compelling and scalable solution to change how marketers do business.”

Nielsen Catalina Ventures could also be a way to head off TRA, a rival research service that integrates set-top box data with product purchase data to provide similar measures. TRA has already made some headway into agencies such as MediaVest, which hopes to use the new product-purchase/TV ratings to buy national TV time.

For the future, the JV is looking to add more media to the mix and expand its database by folding in set-top box data for more scale.

Mediaweek is a unit of the Nielsen Co.