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After missing out on top job at WPP, IBM’s David Kenny named Nielsen CEO


By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

November 20, 2018 | 3 min read

The head of IBM’s Watson and Cloud platform David Kenny has been named the new chief executive at Nielsen. Kenny will succeed Mitch Barnes, who is due to retire after 22-years with the company.

David Kenny

David Kenny, IBM

Kenny has previously headed up the Weather Company before it was acquired by IBM in 2016, co-founded ad agency Digitas and was the managing partner of VivaKi, part of the Publicis Groupe. He made headlines recently after going out for the top job at WPP following the exit of Sir Martin Sorrell.

WPP was reported to have approached Kenny for the role and he was interviewed by senior executives at the advertising giant during the summer. However, he failed to make it to the final round with favourite Mark Read eventually being named chief executive.

Kenny will join the ratings and data company on 3 December.

“Nielsen is uniquely placed at the intersection of marketing data and technology. In today’s era of fast moving, ever changing consumers and markets, it is this combination that drives businesses forward,” he said of his appointment.

“I’m thrilled to join this industry-leading company at this point in time, when so much is possible.”

His joining comes amid a wider strategic review being led by James Attwood, executive chairman of the board. In the face of pressure to sell or spin off a portion of its assets, the review is considering all options including continuing to operate as a public, independent company; a separation of either Nielsen's Watch or Buy segments; or a sale of the entire company.

"[Kenny’s] decades of experience in Big Data, artificial intelligence, cloud technologies, and media make him perfectly suited to lead Nielsen at this critical time,” added Attwood.

“Having spent a substantial portion of his career working in the advertising world, he has a deep and holistic understanding of advertisers and how best to serve them, and he has a proven track record of implementing growth strategies, overseeing strategic transactions and creating value for stakeholders. His multi-disciplinary background and history of success make him a great fit for this position. The Board looks forward to David’s participation in the ongoing strategic review as we work to enhance shareholder value.”

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