Nielsen CEO Mitch Barns Discusses Audience Measurement in the Digital Age

Colloquium on Marketing Leadership

Since 1950, Nielsen has measured television audiences, using paper diaries and meters to produce ratings that drive advertising and programming. But today, tuning into a broadcast is just one of many opportunities to watch a program, from DVRs to mobile phones, which means the company has to devise a means of assessing audiences across many platforms.

“To stay relevant in the future, we’ve got to measure total audience and total engagement—not just TV audiences, but audience wherever, however, and on whatever device they’re watching,” Nielsen CEO Mitch Barns told students at Yale SOM. “And we’ve got to do it in a way that makes the results comparable.”

Barns spoke at Yale SOM on February 24 as part of the Marketing Leadership Colloquium, which is sponsored by SOM’s Center for Customer Insights.

To fulfill its new mission, Nielsen has adopted a “customer-oriented” mission to replace its traditional “customer-centric” mission, Barns said.

This means that Nielsen is becoming a platform-based, systems-oriented company. The company continuously assembles data and shares it with its clients to support their marketing and advertising functions.

“You end up using fewer people and relying more on the platform and systems to leverage the data,” Barns said.

In order to successfully execute this revised model, Nielsen employees need a clear sense of mission and they need to trust their leadership, Barns said. The keys are collaboration across the organization and a system of “balanced decision-making” that gives employees “in the trenches” a measure of autonomy and input. “If you have no power over the decisions being made, than you don’t feel responsible for the consequences,” Barns said.

Corporate culture, he explained, is a delicate living web that links all functions and must be thoughtfully maintained. “Culture is absolutely key,” he said. “Every day, you either get a little bit stronger with your culture or you get a little bit weaker.”

About the Event

Mitch Barns visited SOM to discuss his decades-long career in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and media worlds. He shared his thoughts on the headwinds and tailwinds facing global markets and consumers.

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Speakers

Mitch Barns

CEO of Nielsen

Mitch Barns is Chief Executive Officer of Nielsen. He was appointed to this role in January 2014. Since joining Nielsen in 1997, Mitch has lived and worked on three continents and has held leadership roles across all major parts of Nielsen’s...

Mitch Barns is Chief Executive Officer of Nielsen. He was appointed to this role in January 2014. Since joining Nielsen in 1997, Mitch has lived and worked on three continents and has held leadership roles across all major parts of Nielsen’s business. Throughout 2013, Mitch served as President, Global Client Service, leading the efforts of Nielsen’s client service organization worldwide. Before that, Mitch was President of Nielsen’s U.S. Media business from 2011-2013, where he oversaw the development of its analytics practice, guided the integration of its TV and Digital groups, and helped transform the unit’s client service model to focus on driving performance improvement and value for Nielsen’s clients. From 2008-2011, Mitch served as President of Nielsen’s Greater China business where he led its transition to a fast-growing, standalone region. In the early 2000s, he was President of Nielsen’s BASES and Analytic Consulting businesses, which have since become the core of the company’s growing analytics business. He first joined the company as part of Nielsen BASES, where he held various senior positions in the U.S. and Europe. He began his career at Procter & Gamble, where he spent 12 years in marketing research and brand management. Mitch serves on the Board of Trustees for The Paley Center for Media and is a member of the American Heart Association CEO Roundtable. He holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Miami University and completed the Stanford Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.