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History of A.C. Nielsen Center

The Nielsen Family

Thanks to a generous contribution from the Nielsen family, the center was founded in 1990. Arthur C. Nielsen Sr., the late founder of the A.C. Nielsen Company revolutionized the field of marketing research by developing the concept of market share. An alumnus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Nielsen is best known for the television-rating service that bears his name.

Both Arthur C. Nielsen Sr. and Gertrude, his wife, attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Their son, Arthur C. Nielsen Jr. received his bachelor’s degree in business from the university. Like his father, he earned high scholastic honors and became an integral part of the A.C. Nielsen Company, eventually serving as chairman of the board and chief executive officer in 1989. He also received an honorary doctorate from the university.

Throughout the years, the Nielsens have generously supported the University of Wisconsin–Madison in several areas. Funded by a $4 million endowment from Gertrude Nielsen, and Mr. & Mrs. Arthur C. Nielsen Jr., the Nielsen Center and the faculty chair were established through a gift to the University of Wisconsin–Madison Foundation. By providing resources to launch the center’s program, the Nielsens have ensured that the University of Wisconsin–Madison will continue to offer a premier program in marketing analytics and insights education.

The marketing analytics and insights specialization has been available at UW–Madison since the mid 1970s. It was enhanced and formalized in 1989 because of this generous grant, whose endowment supported the founding Center. An MS degree in marketing with a marketing research concentration was originally offered, and in 1997, an MBA degree with a marketing research concentration was created. In 2003, the business school updated the MBA curriculum so that all students would get the best of the MS and MBA program in one option.

Gilbert A. Churchill Jr., First Faculty Director of the A. C. Nielsen Center

Gilbert A. Churchill Jr. served as the first A.C. Nielsen Center director in 1990 and also held the Arthur C. Nielsen Chair of Marketing Research. Gil received his DBA from Indiana University in 1966 and joined the University of Wisconsin faculty upon graduation. Gil was named Distinguished Marketing Educator by the American Marketing Association in 1986—only the second individual so honored. The lifetime achievement award recognizes and honors a living marketing educator for distinguished service and outstanding contributions in the field of marketing education. He was also awarded the Academy of Marketing Science’s lifetime achievement award in 1993 for his significant scholarly contributions. In 1996, he received a Paul D. Converse Award, which is given to the most influential marketing scholars, as judged by a national jury drawn from universities, business, and government. Also in 1996, the Marketing Research Group of the American Marketing Association established the Gilbert A. Churchill Jr., lifetime achievement award, which is given each year to a person judged to have made significant lifetime contributions to marketing research.

Gil is a past recipient of the William O’Dell Award for the outstanding article appearing in the “Journal of Marketing Research” during the year. He has also been a finalist for the award five other times. He was named Marketer of the Year by the South Central Wisconsin Chapter of the American Marketing Association in 1981. He is a member of the American Marketing Association and has served as vice president of publications and on its board of directors as well as on the association’s Advisory Committee to the Bureau of the Census. In addition, he has served as a consultant to a number of companies, including Oscar Mayer, Western Publishing Company, and Parker Pen.

Gil’s articles have appeared in such publications as the “Journal of Marketing Research,” the “Journal of Marketing,” the “Journal of Consumer Research,” the “Journal of Retailing,” the “Journal of Business Research,” “Decision Sciences,” “Technometrics,” and “Organizational Behavior and Human Performance,” among others. He is co-author of several books, including Marketing: Creating Value for Customers, 2nd ed. (Burr Ridge, IL.: Irwin McGraw Hill, 1998), Sales Force Management: Planning, Implementation, and Control, 6th ed. (McGraw Hill, 2000), and Salesforce Performance (Lexington Books, 1984); and he is also author of Marketing Research: Methodological Foundations, 7th edition (Fort Worth, TX.: Dryden, 1999) in addition to Basic Marketing Research, 4th edition (Fort Worth, TX.: Harcourt College Publishers, 2001). He is a former editor of the “Journal of Marketing Research” and has served on the editorial boards of “Journal of Marketing Research,” “Journal of Marketing,” Journal of Business Research,” “Journal of Health Care Marketing,” and the “Asian Journal of Marketing.” Gil is a past recipient of the Lawrence J. Larson Excellence in Teaching Award.

In addition to his excellent teaching for 29 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, his role as the first director of the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research, and as the initial Arthur C. Nielsen Jr., Chair of Marketing Research, Gilbert A. Churchill Jr., has now given something else to the University and the Marketing Department. He and his wife Helen, also provided the department with an endowed professorship of marketing: The Churchill Professorship of Marketing was the first of its kind within the Wisconsin School of Business.