What is Nielsen's PRISM service?
Back in 2006, P&G and Walmart asked Nielsen to help them put together an in-store media measurement program after deciding not to participate in the Marketing at-Retail Initiative (MARI) that POPAI was working on at the time. They managed to sign up a long list of participating companies -- a veritable who's who of retailers and CPG makers like Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kraft, Mattel and Nintendo -- to work together on the Pioneering Research for an In-Store Metric, or P.R.I.S.M. (clever acronym, eh?). Its goal was to monitor shoppers, figure out where they went in the store, determine what kind of media they were exposed to (POP displays, posters, shelf toppers, in-store audio, digital signage screens and the like), and generate a metric by which advertisers could value their messages.
What happened to it?
Image credit: Memotions
Who will take the lead on measuring in-store media now?
The obvious money is on POPAI. Their MARI program, while hindered by an initial rebuff by Walmart and P&G, is now the longest-running of its kind. I've been told that the powers that be inside POPAI are talking about MARI this week, so hopefully we'll hear something from them soon. However, as we've seen with PRISM, strong partners backing the program is no guarantee of success. The bigger question here is, how big of a market for in-store metrics is there really? If there was robust demand from customers, Nielsen would have had no trouble moving forward. Likewise, if the cost of running the program was low, they could have hunkered down and waited for marketers to open their pocketbooks again. However, a combination of high cost of supply and low demand proved deadly, kind of like the "Intro to Capitalism" chapter in your Econ 101 textbook said it would be.
What do advertisers actually want?
The thing is, advertisers are still not sure what they should be buying, or how to buy it. Metrics are certainly on their list of must-haves before really diving into the "out-of-home 2.0" marketplace. But despite growth in the DOOH industry, a lot of agencies still can't be bothered with us. Further, there are plenty of others who want to play, but won't pay a lot to do so (as I anecdotally explained when asking whether measuring digital signage will really do us any good). Finally, there are a growing number of companies who are simply willing to figure it out as they go along, provided that they can dump their money somewhere other than TV, print or radio. Case in point: CPG giant Schering-Plough just announced a $10M campaign spanning 17 digital signage networks. It's set to run for 12 weeks and deliver over a billion impressions, and S-P's agency Chrysalis "is planning a heavy research component to gauge the success of the campaign using metrics requested by the client" (my emphasis added).
Let's take a deep breath and move on
The bottom line is this: PRISM's failure doesn't really tell us how customers feel about digital signage, or whether advertisers are accepting our medium, or even whether our industry is "ready for prime time," whatever that means. The PRISM situation simply shows that the PRISM program, in its current form, is not viable. However, digital signage networks continue to grow and thrive -- just a few weeks ago I mentioned 4 areas that are likely to show strong growth in the next 12-18 months. But measurement of this media is still uncharted territory, so we will have some failures before achieving success.
Does PRISM's failure worry you? What will a third-party measurement effort have to do differently in order to succeed? Leave a comment below and let us know.