Some of the marketing world's most powerful players -- Procter & Gamble Co.'s Jim Stengel, Wal-Mart's Stephen Quinn and Laura Desmond of Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group -- announced the results on a shared stage at McCormick Place in Chicago at the In-Store Marketing Institute's annual meeting. P&G is the presenting sponsor of the $1 million study, which took place over four weeks in May and relied on infrared sensors to track store traffic.
A 'cowboy market'
"There is no current market for media in that environment the way it exists for typical mass media. It's a kind of cowboy market. No one really knows, there's not even a vocabulary for how that market would work," said Bill Bean, director-trade insights at the Miller Brewing Co., and a member of the now formed In-Store Metrics Consortium.
Mr. Bean, a critic of existing measurements for TV and traditional media, said the study's model still needs to add the variables of engagement and response, but he added: "At this stage of its development, this is still a useful place to start that journey. It's not the place to stop."
The stakes remain high as retailers scramble to prove the return on investment of the unproven world of in-store advertising, which already garners an estimated $17 billion a year in spending, so it's understandable why a consumer package-goods company such as P&G would want to invest time and money into a pilot study to develop a measurement tool.
P&G spearheaded the In-Store Marketing Institute's study after walking away from another study from rival trade organization POPAI that has been further stalled by Wal-Mart's non-participation.
P&G's media agency
P&G brought its own media agency, Starcom MediaVest, on board to form the consortium, which includes five "co-sponsors" -- 3M, Coca-Cola, Walt Disney Co., Kellogg and Miller. Notably, all but 3M are clients of Starcom. Retailers involved in the study are Albertson's, Kroger, Walgreens and Wal-Mart Stores.
The "common vision is the importance of the in-store environment as a marketing medium and the fundamentally the importance of measuring in-store," said Paul Fox, head of external relations-global operations at P&G.
Despite P&G's role in stalling POPAI's own study, the group's CEO, Dick Blatt, praised the institute's efforts. "We applaud the P&G-led effort and view it as another important step along the way toward gaining final metrics and syndication," he said. He added that it is "good for the industry," especially given the stature of P&G's marketing efforts.
As for his group's own efforts, he said POPAI intends "to go forward to help establish an industry standard." He declined to comment on when the results of POPAI's study might be announced.
Seeking a syndication partner
Peter Hoyt, executive director of the institute, said there's still a great deal of ground to cover and the next step is signing up a syndication company such as Nielsen or Arbitron. The study currently covers "only 10 stores over a month and needs to be over a much broader time and in far more retail categories," he said.
Additionally, funding for the next round -- after consortium members put up nearly $1 million for the first -- will need to come from a syndication company willing to take a stake in furthering the model. "The next round will need many times the $1 million of the first round," Mr. Hoyt said. "And we will need more brands and more categories and investment."
Rob Wolf of IBN, exec VP-research at IBN, which is rolling out an in-store ad network at Kroger Stores, said the study is a step forward, but "What we really need is a model that everyone can say 'I'll live with that,' because frankly you can do this 100 ways and everyone can argue the approach."
Can become part of marketing mix
Laura Desmond, CEO, Starcom MediaVest Group, the Americas, called the study potentially game-changing and a big step forward and said it begins to pave the way to giving in-store marketing a seat at the table. "We can start planning in-store upfront in regards to the rest of the media mix," Ms. Desmond said. "Right now money and decisions are only being made from the gut level."
Patrick Sbarra, president of New Creature, a marketing firm based in Rogers, Ark., whose clients include Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, said metrics are needed but warned that the in-store space is full of variables.
"While it's certainly encouraging that there's a way to inject some measurements, we need to be careful and cautious not to let the mistakes and limitations of traditional media metrics into the in-store space," he said.