Nielsen: Death Star Approaching?

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…well actually 30 years ago and in Hollywood (same difference?) the Death Star came into our collective consciousness.  The Death Star was the dominant force in the universe, wiping out small planets at will.  However, its size made it difficult to maneuver and left it open to small rebel attacks.  One final point I’ll bring to your attention was the political backdrop – lots of posturing, gesturing, and threatening, while the Empire just kept on doing its thing.

Since VNU took Nielsen private last summer and started trimming fat/streamlining operations, the direction looks pretty clear on an emerging integrated marketing measurement superpower.  Don’t get me wrong – Nielsen was a TV ratings monopoly to begin with, but has been slow-moving.  Witness the anticipated launch of A2/M2…in 2011.  The media industry has been debating the validity and use of live/commercial ratings, delaying them for now.  While all along the way, Nielsen has been reorganizing and building a potentially unstoppable "superlaser" of measurement.  [sorry, saw that on the site and can’t get Dr. Evil out of my head]

The one element that would have made this the perfect analogy to torpedos in an exhaust port would be if social media measurement were missing.  But it’s not, thanks to Buzzmetrics.  Is the new Nielsen Death Star III in the making?  With the repurchase of NetRatings, the company now owns measurement in television, print, online, outdoor, consumer-generated media, and out-of-home.  We hear experiments in cross-channel, like Project Apollo.  [btw no assumptions from me on who’ll be cast as the Emperor, Darth Vader, et al.]

Is there anything that’s going to stop this measurement juggernaut?  A truly integrated measurement suite would be invaluable for marketers – but market power in the hands of a few tends to produce sub-optimal results.  Do market mix modelers have the answer?  Or other companies that can aggregate an independent array of data sources?  Or should we hope that Nielsen gets it right, quickly, for the sake of marketing accountability?