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PROJECT APOLLO PLANS DOWNSIZED AS P&G HOLDS BACK

Others Cite Sticker Shock at Cost of ROI Assessment System

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CINCINNATI (AdAge.com) -- Despite the absence of their primary client, Arbitron and VNU plan to launch a trimmed-down national pilot of their Project Apollo system for measuring the return on investment produced by marketing campaigns, the companies announced.
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The effort is going forward even though the charter participant -- Procter & Gamble Co., has not signed on. P&G helped design the project and has been a backer since the companies first announced their intention to develop the service last fall.

'Working out details'
"It's just a matter of working out the details," a P&G spokeswoman said. "We think this is a step in the right direction. Of course, we're anxious for the full panel to be eventually deployed, but we're very happy they're taking this step."

Thom Mocarsky, Arbitron's vice president of communications, said Arbitron and VNU are in talks with several other potential clients but none have signed on yet.

Sticker shock
However, executives close to potential clients beyond P&G cited sticker shock. They said Arbitron and VNU were seeking an assessment of 0.5% of their marketing budgets for the service, amounting to a seven-figure annual outlay even for midsize advertisers. That's well above what they're accustomed to paying for market research.

Original plans called for a nationwide panel of 30,000 households whose members would be equipped with Arbitron's Portable People Meters to measure exposure to a wide array of TV, radio, cinema, in-store and other media advertising and also use handheld scanners to record their purchases, merging the information into a single-source database to show how various forms of marketing affect sales.

Clients holding back
Mr. Mocarsky said several clients have said they want to see a sample of what kind of data the service can deliver before making a commitment, which was why Arbitron and VNU began developing the current pilot concept in March. The pilot's national panel will have 6,250 members. He said the companies still hope to deploy the full national panel at a later date.

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