VNU claims that the PRISM methodology, "which will be developed through a new unit of VNU known as Nielsen In-Store, will measure consumer exposure to a fast-growing and powerful array of in-store marketing vehicles, including television and radio, shelf talkers, digital signage, and other point-of-purchase displays." While the early 2006 study was an opportunity to vet the metric's efficacy as well as the technology used to measure it, VNU will now be bolstering store-gathered data by leveraging the "measurement, analytical and marketing capabilities of a number of VNU businesses, including ACNielsen for retail measurement, consumer panel and retailer services; Nielsen Media Research for audience measurement and analysis; and Interactive Market Systems for media planning and modeling," according to George Wishart, global managing director of Nielsen In-Store. The service will also tie into VNU's Spectra, Trade Dimensions and BASES offerings, along with VNU Business Media (which runs the GlobalShop trade show). The consortium has settled upon the following formula to calculate its metric for in-store media consumption:
Store Traffic × Compliance × Unduplicated Impressions = In-Store Marketing Metric
While this formula can obviously now be followed by any other group wishing to perform in-store media auditing, the key to its accuracy will lie with the particular methodologies used to calculate each part of the equation. For example, some stores may wish to deploy full-time video monitoring systems to calculate an exact traffic count, while others may opt to do quarterly or even annual audits of traffic. Unduplicated, unique impressions will be even harder to measure accurately, and I'm sure there will be some debate as to what constitutes a duplication (or rather, what should constitute a duplication), and what kind of sampling frequency will be necessary to get accurate data.
Despite the technical and logistical challenges, though, PRISM and other techniques will likely gain acceptance in the industry if for no other reason than many retailers and CPGs seem to want them (PRISM's blue chip list of participants includes 3M, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, Miller Brewing, Procter & Gamble, The Walt Disney Company, Albertsons, Kroger, Walgreens and Wal-Mart). Likewise, many in the retail media industry have been pushing for standardization of media measurement, and it is generally believed that the ability to provide an authoritative metric for retail media consumption will have a significant positive impact on the adoption rate of store media systems.
Still, I can't help but wonder if (or how) the PRISM effort is going to answer some of the pressing questions in the industry. For example, will "Opportunities to See" or "In-Store Reach" correlate with higher sales of promoted products? While participating retailers and CPGs may be able to reach a definitive conclusion, there are still confidentiality and data sharing issues that could make it difficult to establish a broader baseline for the effectiveness of at-retail media. On the other hand, larger firms may recognize the value of getting a more complete picture of retail media exposure and consumption and thus opt to share their information in exchange for that of their partners and competitors. Also, with more retailers tracking shopper movements, I'd expect to see privacy issues come to the forefront. For example, if shopper tracking data from multiple retailers were connected to loyalty and payment records, it could create a huge (and tempting) repository of personal information.
Then there's the possibility that conflicting reports on media effectiveness will confuse the industry (though given the dearth of information right now, I have to believe that more is still better). For example, other organizations like POPAI will probably choose to measure media exposure differently than PRISM, by selecting a different set of measurement criteria, methodologies, or both. While some lament the immediate fracture of the media measurement effort into two (or more) camps, I personally think it's a great thing: If PRISM and POPAI use different metrics but come up with similar results, that will go a long way towards not only validating in-store media in general, but also confirming the efficacy of the particular methodologies that each group uses. Alternatively, if the results of the two studies are radically different, that means somebody is likely wrong, and I'd prefer to know that sooner rather than later.
In all, VNU's announcement is a good thing for our industry, and should help bring retail media systems in-line with traditional measured media like TV and radio. Whether this will spur media buyers and planners to add retail networks into their repertoire remains to be seen, but as we already know, the lack of this data is something they've cited as a major stumbling block with retail media in the past. Given VNU's announcement, POPAI will need to respond in order to stay relevant, so we'll be on the lookout for additional developments in the retail media measurement saga in early '07.