The delay not only highlights the daunting task of persuading major marketers and retailers to share confidential data but also throws into question whether Point-of-Purchase Advertising International -- which was undertaking the multi-million dollar initiative along with the Association of National Advertisers -- can lead the charge to bring the metrics used in TV and radio to the retail-advertising medium.
P&G's pass is a big blow and comes as a particular surprise, given that Dina Howell, director of the company's so-called First Moment of Truth Business Team, sits on the board of the POPAI. P&G said Ms. Howell was not available to comment.
'An ugly situation'
It's "an ugly situation because [P&G] helped initiate the study," said Jim Spaeth of Sequent Partners, a member of the POPAI board. "That relationship fell apart because P&G wants to do things in a certain way. They wanted to control the project so it met their specific needs, potentially to the exclusion of other marketers supporting it. That's one of the things that sent everyone spinning around in circles."
The study was originally slated to kick off this spring, but now has no definitive start date eight months after being announced.
The stakes are clearly high as retailers scramble to prove the ROI of the unproven world of in-store advertising, which already garners an estimated at $17 billion a year in spending.
In a bid to keep the study alive, POPAI's CEO, Dick Blatt, said the nonprofit organization, after P&G walked away, immediately began discussions with Nielsen and KMR Group, a U.K.-based marketing and research firm within WPP's Kantar Group, but said nothing had yet been finalized. Michael Palmer, senior VP-member relations at ANA, did not return calls for comment.
"We knew from day one it would be daunting," Mr. Blatt said, adding that both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola remain "at the table," in addition to Kraft Foods. Mr. Blatt blamed the study's delay on the difficulty of operating as a nonprofit because "by our nature we have to be inclusive and have input from a lot" the organization's members. "I don't think you are going to find anyone who can make the wheels turn any faster," he added.
But Peter Hoyt, executive director of the for-profit In-Store Marketing Institute, said his Skokie, Ill.-based organization is pulling together its own research study to bring metrics to in-store advertising.
"There's a really big one in the works, but it's everyone's wish we not discuss it until it is finalized," he said, adding that he is heavily lobbying P&G and Wal-Mart Stores to participate and that the study will have similar objectives to the POPAI study.
David Polinchock, chairman of the Brand Experience Lab, a New York-based firm focused on emerging technology in shopper marketing, said he's not surprised by the retailer's absence, considering its stake in its Wal-MartTV network managed by Premiere Retail Networks. And P&G's decision to not participate didn't shock him, either.
"There are just so many competing agendas among the retailers and big brands," he said. "Let's say, when you look at what PRN says, that they have 140 million viewers a week in their stores. ... What if this study showed that they really only have 2 million engaged viewers?"
"There's still a lot of field work that has to get done to figure out how to measure this space," said Andy Murray, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi X, a shopper-marketing agency based in Bentonville, and another POPAI board member. "There are a lot of people looking at this as something that could change the game if someone can quantify the in-store medium for media planners just like other media."