At some stage last year WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell (left) seems to have decided that WPP’s attempt to muscle in on the audience measurement business -essentially challenging Nielsen – was doomed to failure.
So he went and bought a 16.7 per cent stake in Rentrak, the US-based film and TV measurement company, for about $50m. WPP’s Kantar US audience measurement system was folded into Rentrak.
Now he’s done the same with online measurement by taking a stake – somewhere between 15 and 19.9 per cent – in internet audience measurement company ComScore in a complex deal that could cost up to $300m.
On the face of things it seems odd that the mighty WPP is prepared to operate through minority stakes in such a big and profitable business. WPP’s Kantar ‘data’ operation generates revenues of about $5bn and employs an eye-watering 34000 people.
But clients and other agencies don’t like the notion of WPP, which is also a collection of agencies including some of the biggest TV and online buyers in the world, providing the data they need as well. It’s just too close to home.
Sorrell is gambling that Rentrak and ComScore, with WPP’s backing and support as a large buyer of their services, will be able to rival Nielsen, which has come under fire for being slow to respond to media market changes. Rentrak and ComScore, meanwhile, have a job to do in persuading their other clients that the WPP connection doesn’t mean sweetheart deals for one of their biggest rivals.
We’ve said before that WPP is, in some ways, like an advertising, media and marketing investment trust. The huge Kantar operation is certainly looking more like one.