There has been much discussion at recent industry events about Project Apollo. This is an initiative of Nielsen/VNU and Arbitron and backed by Procter & Gamble to measure media usage on an "apples-to-apples" basis. Among the advertising-oriented venues where this has been discussed are the AAAA Media conference in New Orleans and the recent meeting at the ARF.
A major concern we have is that few seem concerned that the project in its current form does not currently involve the internet other than streaming audio and video. (Thanks for calling this out to me, Frank.) No banners, no rich media, no search. And, no consideration "for now" of all of the other ways that people are confronted during the day with brand or direct response messaging through the internet.
Project Apollo's stated goal is to measure "a day in the life" of a consumer, measuring all media usage utilitizing a single personal meter device.
As we all know, there is a proliferation of media choices and devices. All of these are taking up some of our time. And all of these involve media exposure, whether there is a commercial message or not. As one example, ever since I got a 300 CD changer, I stopped listening to music radio at home. Sure, I listen to news radio in the bathroom in the morning, but music radio is now relegated to the car. And I get my portable music outside of the car through my MP3 player (Napster/Microsoft compatible, NOT an iPod as I still cannot personally buy into the Apple proprietary format attitude). Real soon now, the dLink media receiver in my living room will push my MP3s through my stereo for everyday use and relegate the original CDs back to individual status. And I really plan to get my MP3 player hooked up in my car too, so radio may be sayonara until I get satellite radio. But I digress.
In addition to the proliferation stated above, there is more media being consumed away from home, media use increasing personally probably due to non-commercial media like MP3s but also due to multiple media exposures at once. In addition, Channel blurring (due to the large number of products with similar names) and expanded product offerings have been discussed among many in the industry(As an example of channel blurring, anybody care to guess how many products either ESPN or MTV have? I will be willing to bet that they both have more than 20. Anybody guess that high? )
The big issue right now: The prototype discussions for this research include Broadcast TV commercials, cable networks (yes, they still count this as two media), Broadcast Network TV (I guess to measure product placement) Network Radio, in-store media exposure and streaming media. For now, no web advertising other than streaming. No cinema. No video games. No mobile (cell phones, PDAs, etc.). No out-of-home. No electronic print. No POP in store. No direct mail and, no mention of how traditional print is being handled.
Now, I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that major factors like web advertising will eventually get included through the efforts of the ARF, AAAA, ANA, IAB, OPA, MSN, Yahoo! and others, although in a meeting at the ARF on Monday, there was more turf battle than agreement.
But, what about search, and what about the next big thing? (Yes editor, I buried the lead). Isn't this all about staying on top of the big changes that are going on? If the result of this potential landmark research is that we know more about broadcast for TV vs. Cable vs. product placement, great. But what about newer media that have reached critical mass?
I will deal with just two of these, search and the PSP, but there are many more, like the iPod and cell phone just to name a few.
For search, nobody seems to care about measuring it from a brand standpoint. Sure, we applaud Dynamic Logic when they release some research showing that search contributes from a branding standpoint, but who is speaking for the brand manager when they ask the reach and frequency implication of these efforts as added to other media? Measuring search from a DR standpoint is simply not enough. We need to know the overall impact of this spending just like we need to know with other media. Why is more detailed search measurement not on the table? Probably because Google and Yahoo! have spent the last five years telling us all why they are different than other media and have not tried to sit at the table relative to standards. All the same, any new metrics MUST include search. There is too much money being spent on it to leave it out.
My second example (and I am sure you have many more) is the Sony PSP, which is not even out yet. This is a huge threat to the iPod as the hot new CE item. It does so much more than bury Nintendo in the portable video game market. It will run movies, play MP3s, show photos and whatever else you can imagine over time that you want to take with you. It will not replace MP3 players as they will be affordably dedicated to massive amounts of music portably. But it probably spells the death knell for iPod, which has been as much about fashion as music. There are many more efficient ways to listen to music using the Microsoft and Napster (and their competitors') solutions.
But, if I am right, and the PSP is something that several million people will be carrying around by Christmas, how can we not measure that?
So I have two questions to wrap this up:
Are the people doing Project Apollo just trying to protect their jobs and those around them by adding better metrics to TV?
And secondly, what are you going to do with your trade associations' representatives in terms of lobbying for inclusion of "traditional interactive" and new media into the project?
David L. Smith is CEO of Mediasmith, Inc., a full service media agency in San Francisco.