Q&A: Leslie Wood of Nielsen Catalina Solutions on Knowing Consumers

"The first criteria is buying: How did they buy the brand and category for that past year?"


Leslie Wood is a research veteran whose background in Telmar rep house, Ted Bates' ad agency, ScanAmerica and consulting matches perfectly with her current role as Chief Research Officer for Nielsen Catalina Solutions. Although her parents wanted her to be an artist, Wood majored in mathematics. “I have always been about data and how to help people make better decisions,” she explained.

In this interview, Wood (pictured below) talks about her work at Nielsen Catalina, the power of data in understanding the sales funnel, cross platform measurement, the fragmentation of choices in the market, trends in the industry and where the industry is heading five years from now.

Charlene Weisler: What do you do now at Nielsen?

Leslie Wood: I actually work for Nielsen Catalina Solutions which is a joint venture owned by Nielsen and Catalina. The beauty of how it was set up is that we have access to all of our parent companies’ resources. Anything they own, we can use. And in return, we share our revenue. We divide our revenue and give it to our parents. That means that we have access to all of Nielsen’s assets, which most people are aware of, [and we] also have the Catalina assets. We have to have a separate agreement with all of the retailers, but what Catalina brings to the party is a server in every supermarket and every drugstore, every retailer that we connect to. This provides 90 million households of frequent shopper data for our single source solutions. Our agreement is that we are CPG (Consumer Product Groups) and we are in the U.S and that we will be on the watch side, the media side and the buy side. Anything that crosses those pieces is ours. My job has amazing resources.

Charlene: Tell me about your Cognitive AdVantics initiative.

Leslie: We have been using ANCOVA (Analysis of Covariance) as our methodology for measuring sales events -- the effect of advertising on sales. Basically what you do is you take exposed households during the campaign and for every exposed household you find a matched unexposed household and you make them perfectly matched so all of their purchases in the prior year are lined up. So you are finding two people who are very similar.

Charlene: How do you match?

Leslie: The first criteria is buying: How did they buy the brand and category for that past year? We also match demographics and race and media consumption and all kinds of other pieces. But in television, when reach is high there isn’t a good group of unreached households. And they are different. They are not really your target and they are strange light TV viewers. So they are not representative and it is hard to find a good match. This is not a problem in digital. In digital we don’t have those kinds of reach problems but in TV we do. We have been using other techniques and decided that this is an opportunity to really step up.

So we created Cognitive AdVantics and it has several key characteristics. One is that it is a data mining technique that results in an answer after going through a rigorous process. It starts at the purchase occasion. For that occasion it looks back in time to see what happened prior to this purchase. How many TV exposures did it have? Or digital? Or digital and television? Or radio? Or all those things? What were all of the influences? Was it on deal? Was it on feature? Did you have a coupon? Up to the moment of purchase. So we are looking at exposed versus unexposed but we are looking at them matching purchases that happened roughly at the same time with all of the same characteristics going back but you are only looking at households who were exposed a week before or a month before or a quarter before. And that gives you the ability to find unexposed households. ANCOVA is able to take care of the issue around targeting. For Cognitive AdVantics we create two models. One model is of exposure which models the likelihood you would be exposed to an ad based on your characteristics. It then models the likelihood of buying the brand and then puts it all together to get a unified measure of sales response to advertising.

Charlene: Where do you see the media landscape heading in the next three to five years?

Leslie: The world is changing and it will continue to change. We have amazing young people building amazing capabilities. I think consumers want connection to each other. They want entertainment. They want what they are engaged in to be a high quality experience. That can be on an iPad close up or a big screen. It’s all about what fits where somebody is in the moment they are. All media are evolving to be more consumer-centric to follow the consumer and meet the need of the consumer.

Image at top courtesy of Corbis. The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage/MyersBizNet management or associated bloggers. 

Charlene Weisler is a media research executive with experience that spans broadcast, cable, off-platform, non-linear and broadband. Her expertise is in set top box data, SEO, metrics creation and behavioral psychography. In addition, she writes about the media for several industry publications and hosts a blog at www.WeislerMedia.blogspot.com.

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