Founding of the Nielsen Company, and the Nielsen Code

"The price of light is less than the cost of darkness." — Arthur C. Nielsen.

 

Adversity in the form of the Great Depression inspired the creation of what became the largest market research agency. The A. C. Nielsen Company which conducted performance surveys of industrial equipment nearly went bankrupt at the onset of the Depression. The company’s founder Arthur Nielsen Sr., turning to a business proposition relatively immune to business cycles and war, created the Nielsen Food and Drug Index, a research service that recorded the retail flow of grocery and drug brands by ongoing audits of a sample of stores. A first of its kind, this retail tracking service provided manufacturers an estimate of their product sales and share of the market.

The science of tracking sales through retail outlets has since become the established methodology for the measurement of the sales of goods to consumers. Arthur Nielsen and his team went on to develop the science for measuring radio and television audiences for advertisers.

Among his many contributions to the field of market research, Nielsen left behind a code of conduct called The Nielsen Code (Exhibit 28.0). Enduring and timeless, the eight precepts in this code that dates back to 1931, form the guiding principles for a market research agency. According to David Calhoun, Nielsen’s Executive Chairman, 2013, the code remains “a cornerstone of our brand, and it guides and inspires our employees around the world.”

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