Unilever and Procter & Gamble - in normal circumstances oil and water, chalk and cheese, bin Laden and Bush - have joined forces in search of advertising's North West Passage: the link between consumers' exposure to media and its effect on their purchasing behaviour.

Unilever announced Wednesday it had joined Project Apollo, the pilot initiative launched fifteen months ago by portable people meter pioneer Arbitron and ACNielsen's Homescan Panel [WAMN 01-Oct-04].

Although the venture was immediately backed by P&G, and later by S C Johnson, until this week it had failed to reach orbital velocity with other major advertisers teetering on the brink, deterred by the project's high cost. The recruitment of Unilever virtually guarantees continuation of the Apollo pilot.

More than 14,000 individual participants are paid to tote cellphone-sized PPMs which record their individual exposure to electronic media - TV, network radio and other audio-based commercials. Plus cinema ads and web-based streaming audio and video. Exposure to non-electronic media such as newspapers, magazines and circulars is measured by traditional survey methods.

Data collected from these sources is then correlated with information from the Homescan Panel to flag the relationships between media exposure and purchasing habits.

Says Noreen Simmons, Unilever's US director of strategic media planning: "Maximizing the value of our investments is critical to Unilever, and we anticipate that Project Apollo will help us better understand the complex dynamics of consumer behaviour."

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