BENTONVILLE, Arkansas: The future prospects for Project Apollo received a massive boost on Friday with the announcement that Wal-Mart - the planet's largest retailer - is to join the scheme's development trials.

Apollo, a nationwide marketing ROI research program, pioneered by Arbitron and ACNielsen, is supported by a sextet of major advertisers: Kraft, Pepsico, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson and Unilever - to whose party Wal-Mart brings far more than extra dollars.

The retailer will also join the other six advertisers as a member of the program's steering committee, which, along with the participants' agencies, advises Arbitron and Nielsen on modelling the service.

It melds Arbitron's portable people meter system with ACNielsen's Homescan technology, measuring multimedia exposure and quantifying its effect on consumer purchasing patterns.

Apollo, which has been in pilot since January and will continue through mid-2007, has recruited a pilot panel of 11,000 consumers in 5,000 households.

Says Wal-Mart director of communication insights Ramon Portilla: "We ... [view] Apollo as an innovative research service that will help us understand how multiple touch points of our media strategies work, including traditional vehicles and obviously our own store communication touch points."

Now seven in number, the project's sponsors are responsible for an aggregated $6.8 billion in annual adspend across US measured media.

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff