Arbitron, Nielsen End Project Apollo

NEW YORK Arbitron and the Nielsen Co. have terminated their joint venture known as Project Apollo, the companies said today.

The parties said the decision was made because not enough clients signed on to make it a viable business proposition going forward.

The service, promoted as a “single source” national research service, had been in development for three years. It combined media consumption data (via Arbitron’s portable people meter) and ACNielsen Homescan consumer product purchasing data with other tools to better correlate the impact of media on purchase decisions.

The two companies had been working on the pilot project since early in 2005.  The announcement was made by Susan D. Whiting, Nielsen evp, and Steve Morris, chairman, president and CEO of Arbitron.

A handful of major national advertisers signed on as members of the Project Apollo Steering Committee and to participate in the pilot test. They included PepsiCo, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Unilever, S.C. Johnson and Pfizer.  It was not clear how many of those companies were willing to make long-term commitments, or ultimately how many clients Arbitron and Nielsen believed they needed for the effort to proceed.

“Despite a promising level of interest, we did not secure sufficient client commitments to make Project Apollo a sustainable venture for our two companies,” Arbitron and Nielsen said in a joint statement. “We are grateful to the companies, consultants and to the marketing and advertising agency executives of the seven Project Apollo Steering Committee members who helped us explore the cutting edge of media and marketing research.”

Whiting added, “We have learned a great deal from Project Apollo, and I am confident that this work will enable us to provide even higher levels of quality service to our clients.”

In January 2006, Nielsen and Arbitron completed the deployment of a national pilot panel of more than 11,000 persons in 5,000 households. The pilot panel was intended to show advertisers how Project Apollo might enable a better understanding of the link between consumer exposure to advertising in multiple media and their shopping/purchase behavior.

Adweek is a unit of the Nielsen Co.