WPP’s Kantar accused by research rival TRA of trying to steal ‘secrets’

Research used to be seen as a rather gentlemanly business, boffins beavering away on their inquiries and only interrupted now and then by the tedious business of selling their product to someone.

But that was then. It’s a rather different (and very big) business these days as instanced by French firm Ipsos’ £525m purchase of Synovate from Aegis and subsequent boast that it’s now the third biggest researcher in the world.

One of the companies ahead of it is WPP’s Kantar (the other is Nielsen) and Kantar found itself in court in New York this week, accused by its former friend TRA (WPP is a minority investor in TRA and has a seat on the board) of trying to pinch elements of its Media TRAnalytics service to incorporate into Kantar’s newly-launched RapidView offering.

The alleged theft happened when the two companies were discussing a full buyout of TRA, talks that began in 2008 and included the involvement of Kantar CEO Eric Salama (pictured) at one meeting. Kantar denies the accusation.

There are so many research products around these days as players large and small chase the holy grail of being able to prove how advertising works (or doesn’t). It’s no wonder the judge in the case has asked the two parties to agree to mediation (otherwise he could be in the same court for the next few years).

But becoming bigger in research has clearly been identified by WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell as one of his priorities despite its current growth rate at WPP lagging those of advertising and media buying.

A goal the company has clearly been pursuing with its usual vigour.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.