VNU Unites BuzzMetrics, Intelliseek

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Dutch information giant VNU's BuzzMetrics agreed yesterday to take a 50.1 percent interest in Intelliseek and merge the two brands, thus further putting word of mouth marketing on the map as an important element of understanding consumer behavior.

The new company, called Nielsen BuzzMetrics and based in New York, will measure and understand word of mouth behavior and influence. Terms were not disclosed, but Blue Chip, Blue Run and River Cities Capital Funds will be shareholders in the merged company.

"I believe this could be the beginning of the golden age of word of mouth marketing, just as the purchase of Hodes-Daniel by Ogilvy & Mather and Wunderman by Y&R spurred a golden age in direct marketing, bringing it out of the Ginzu knives era," said Jim Nail, former Forrester Research analyst and now chief strategy and marketing officer at Cymfony Inc., an automated media measurement and research firm in Watertown, MA.

Cincinnati-based Intelliseek and BuzzMetrics in New York both use technology to mine blogs and discussion forums, and collect and turn large quantities of unaided conversations into consumer insights.

Nielsen BuzzMetrics will continue to use its property. The site, as the company claims, mines more than 21 million blogs each day, with 50,000 new blogs added each day to the index.

The merged firm also will rely on strategic and financial support from VNU properties like AC Nielsen and Nielsen Media Research. It will have a client list that includes Microsoft, Canon, Comcast, Ford, General Motors, HBO, Kraft, Nokia, Procter & Gamble Co., Showtime, Sony, Target and Toyota.

Itzhak Fisher, chairman of BuzzMetrics, will hold that title at Nielsen BuzzMetrics. Jonathan Carson will be CEO and Intelliseek president/CEO will become president and chief operating officer of Nielsen BuzzMetrics. Mahendra Vora, founder and chairman of Intelliseek, will hold a seat on the merged company's board.

This is VNU's third word of mouth research investment. The company in February last year bought an equity stake in Trendum, a media and linguistic analysis technologies firm. Seven months later, Trendum bought BuzzMetrics and took that company's name.

Consumer-Generated Media Acknowledged

Nail said the Nielsen endorsement means marketers will take consumer-generated media more serious as a must-have, and not as a nice-to-have marketing option.

"Finding a consumer-generated media partner has just moved up on the marketer's to-do list," Nail told Cymfony employees in a memo.

He also pointed out that marketers get a cleaner decision process. Markets with lots of small competitors are confusing for buyers. It is hard for hard for them to know who is a real player and difficult to understand the differences. In a way, it creates a fear of making decisions because marketers feel they may have missed a better option.

Finally, the Intelliseek acquisition will lead to increased request-for-proposal activity.

"With the Nielsen resources, it is likely BuzzMetrics will increase marketing activity," Nail said. "This will further raise the visibility of consumer-generated media monitoring and begin the discussion in companies about their approach. But no marketer will automatically sign up with a vendor just because they are the biggest. They have to conduct a review among the top vendors in the space."


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