Arbitron, VNU, to Gauge Ads’ Impact

Arbitron Inc. and Nielsen Media Research parent VNU N.V. are teaming up to develop a new system designed to monitor the messages people hear from television and radio ads both inside and outside of their homes, and how that advertising impacts spending habits.

In collaboration with top packaged-goods firm and major advertiser Procter & Gamble, the companies plan to combine data from Arbitron’s Portable People Meters (PPM) and VNU’s ACNielsen Homescan service.

The PPM monitors media to which people who wear the device are exposed, while Homescan collects data from users who scan the barcodes from products they buy from stores with a scanner as they unload their groceries when they return home.

The companies haven’t come up with a name for the service, which VNU spokeswoman Karen Gyimesi said is called “Project Apollo” internally.

“It’s just an exploratory effort right now,” Gyimesi said of the service, to launch next year.

Arbitron wants to build a panel of 30,000 households, or 70,000 people, to participate, spokesman Thom Mocarsky said. He said Arbitron and VNU hope to sell the data to major advertisers to help them determine how media spending affects shopping habits, but stressed the companies aren’t looking to compete with Nielsen Media Research’s ratings service.

“This is not a ratings service. This isn’t designed to replace what Nielsen does with push-button People Meters,” Mocarsky said.

Added Gyimesi, “What we’re exploring with Arbitron is a market research panel that would give advertisers a better understanding of consumer research and how it ties into multimedia advertising.”

All participants will be equipped with Portable People Meters, which were first tested in Philadelphia in 2001. But not all will have AC Nielsen’s Homescan monitors in their home, Mocarsky said.

ACNielsen’s Homescan sample is based on 61,500 households, rising to 90,000 next month, an ACNielsen spokesman said. Participants on the Homescan panel earn points they can redeem by selecting products from a catalog.

Mocarsky said panelists in the PPM-Homescan test will be compensated with cash, but declined to say how much.

Separately, Arbitron plans to expand its PPM rollout to Houston in the second quarter of 2005, but he said that rollout is designed to gauge local media use in the market, and that the data wouldn’t be used with the Arbitron-VNU venture.