Project Apollo set for expansion

The mission by Arbitron and VNU to revolutionize audience targeting and measurement south of the border is entering its second phase in 2007 - with major clout from the biggest marketers and media spenders in North America.

Arbitron VP sales and new product development Joan FitzGerald, speaking at BBM Canada’s ‘Staying Tuned: Back to the Future of Audience Measurement’ in Toronto yesterday, told hundreds of media and marketing execs that an expansion of the Project Apollo program is planned for 2008. The pilot, which officially launched one year ago, will soon give marketers ‘a richness of information that just isn’t currently available,’ allowing for behaviour-based media planning.

Last year was a good year for major sponsors signing on for Project Apollo, which now kicks off 2007 with backing from Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, Pepsico, Pfizer, Proctor & Gamble, SC Johnson, Unilever and Wal-Mart. FitzGerald says media and marketing execs can expect to see speakers from those major marketing players presenting their own individual Project Apollo results at conferences in North America this year.

The measurement service merges Arbitron’s Portable People Meter (PPM) data with the ACNielsen HomeScan household purchase data. The ongoing pilot launched with a panel of more than 11,000 people in 5,400 households – numbers FitzGerald says will ‘double or triple’ with Project Apollo’s expansion in 2008. So far, six US nets and a long list of radio stations are working with the encoded audio data that allows the PPM to record ‘much more granular measurements’ than any existing method, says FitzGerald. Initial results from the pilot have shown it to be true that 24% of buyers typically make a purchase after one to five ad impressions, although the curve is very different for every brand.

Arbitron’s PPM, a key attribute of Project Apollo, hit Houston households in mid-2005. New York and Philadelphia markets were hooked up this week, and Los Angeles in the next target for the rollout. At the time of Project Apollo’s pilot launch one year ago, BBM Canada raised the number of households on its PPM panel in Quebec to 800, relying on the pencil and paper method of audience measurement in other markets.