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WWP Group's Sorrell Tweaks Nielsen at UBS Confab

By Claire Atkinson, Business Editor, B&C

As chief executive of WPP Group, the knighted Martin Sorrell is a major figure in the advertising world.

He’s also known as a mischief maker who rarely passes up an opportunity to zing a rival—such as the time he called a business decision by Interpublic Group the "irrational actions of a wounded animal."

Speaking Monday at the UBS conference, Mr Sorrell had another target in his sights. His presentation detailed WPP Group’s transformation into a research powerhouse. The centerpiece of that strategy was the company’s 1.93 billion acquisition of Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS), which set up a rivalry with the Nielsen Company.

When asked about Nielsen, Mr Sorrell replied, "We have the highest respect for Nielsen. [CEO] David Calhoun has done an incredibly strong job. But it’s a very highly leveraged play…. Nielsen is, and is going to be, strong competition. But the intense leverage will not make things easy for them in the next 12 to 18 months."

High praise indeed.

Complete Coverage: UBS Global Media and Communications Conference