Nielsen CEO David Kenny Hopes Media Companies ‘Stop Being Nostalgic’ and Look Forward

Part of that, he says, is to prioritize Latino audiences amid the US’s changing demographics

David Kenny, CEO of Nielsen
David Kenny, CEO of Nielsen (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Nielsen CEO David Kenny hopes media companies “stop being nostalgic” and look forward with optimism that they can achieve similar levels of past success in the future.

“I’m trying to get them to stop being nostalgic and think their best days were in the past and start being optimistic about their best days in the future,” Kenny told Sol Trujillo at the L’ATTITUDE Conference. “Getting people to not bemoan what changed in the past, but actually to look forward is where I’m focused. I’m trying to get them to focus on the trends forward, not keep looking backward to what it used to be.”

For the boss of the media measurement company, a change in perspective means focusing on current trends that serve the American population, like prioritizing Latino audiences.

“The best days in the future will go to the media companies that serve the American population and the global highlight along this trend, that inevitably means you’ve got to be Latino first, in your programming [and] in your business model, starting with subscriptions, and then the ads will follow,” he said.

While Kenny noted that serving the Latino population and other prevalent communities is “altruistic,” he also said that it “actually matters for the economic vibrancy of companies and matters for the competitiveness of this nation.”

If CFOs do not focus on the trends, “they’re not going to keep their jobs,” Kenny said. “Things will go wrong. People maybe won’t know why. But the future Latinos who run those companies will fix it.”

For Kenny, making sure the data is representative of which audiences are consuming what is a key element to shifting media conglomerate’s priorities.

“We all have to fight for data integrity,” he said, noting that Nielsen starts with the U.S. to ensure that their panel is “representative of the population in every county, in every state of the United States,” before bringing the panel back to the census.

“It’s the reason Nielsen led the corporate charge to fight the Commerce Department about adding an undocumented immigrant question to the Census because that would suppress the number of people who responded,” he noted, underlining that “media just cares that they’re people.”

Despite the complex process that is sometimes a “big ask” to give the data company access to what they’re watching, Kenny says it’s “essential” to get the data right.

“You can do a lot with big data, but if you don’t correct it with actual people, you overcount some populations and you undercount others,” he said. “There’s a lot of systemic bias in financial records in cable records and subscriptions that just sustain an old model, [which is] no longer where the economy actually is today.”