Project Apollo, a new system to designed to measure return on marketing investment, previously sponsored by Procter & Gamble, will be launched stateside by the year end say its progenitors VNU and Arbitron.

However, because of cost concerns, it seems the project will lift-off without a firm commitment from P&G or - as yet - any other major US marketer.

Meantime, there is much frenzied scuttling behind the scenes, with Arbitron's vp of communications Thom Mocarsky claiming the partners are in talks with "several potential clients".

P&G is holding its cards characteristically close to its chest, at the same time implying its interest in Apollo is still alive - albeit on life support.

Prevaricated a P&G spokeswoman: "It's just a matter of working out the details. 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."

Given the cost hurdle, the planned launch will be a cut-down version of the original template. This envisaged a thirty thousand-strong nationwide panel of households, each equipped with one of Arbitron's Portable People Meters.

Homes would also be equipped with a scanner to record each family's purchases, the information from which will be melded with the PPM data to create a unified database detailing the effect on sales of each marketing discipline and medium.

The real-world launch will be infinitely more modest than the original proposal, comprising a national panel of just 6,250 homes. VNU and Arbitron believe this will still produce enough accurate data to convince the likes of P&G and other fence-sitters of its value as a ROI measurement tool.

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