COLUMBIA, Maryland: After twenty months of sometimes rocky progress, Arbitron and The Nielsen Company announced Friday they have formalized their Project Apollo joint venture under the umbrella of a new limited liability company, Apollo LLC.

The Apollo program generates single-source research data that enables advertisers to make a direct correlation between adspend and consumers' purchase of advertised brands - marketing's quest for the Holy Grail for over three centuries.

The project, which has the (non-financial) backing of the Word Federation of Advertisers, was last year hailed by the latter as "a new level of media planning effectiveness and a substantial leap in media spending productivity" [WARC News: 09-Oct-06].

And although kind words are always sweet, the rustle of folding money is even sweeter on the ear, especially when supplied by such marketing muscle as Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Pfizer, SC Johnson, Pepsi-Cola, Unilever, and Wal-Mart .

The seven titans comprise Apollo's pilot panel and between them spend an aggregated $6.8 billion (€5.25bn; £3.46bn) annually in measured media.

However, Friday's corporate blast-off is no guarantee Apollo will reach orbital velocity. Formation of the new company simply signals the intent of all concerned to progress development and testing up to the point of crossing the investment Rubicon.

Meantime, the most important practical aspect of the signing is the commitment of the parties to expand Apollo's consumer panel from 11,000 people spread across 5,000 households to a sample totalling 30,000 - the service's original target.

The data accruing from the almost-tripled sample will be gathered and processed via Apollo's twin engines: Arbitron's Portable People Meter system and ACNielsen's Homescan technology.

Evangelizes Arbitron president/ceo Steve Morris: "This agreement between Arbitron and The Nielsen Company will help make real the industry's long standing dream of a true, 'single-source' consumer research service."

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