PRISM Schism

If you remember Project Apollo as a 60’s and 70’s-era spaceflight program launched by NASA, and if “single-source” research conjures up visions of late-nights spent on your laptop, then Nielsen and Arbitron’s previous valiant attempt at moving beyond demographic metrics and ferreting out psychographic shopper insights must not have made much of an impression.  Seems that the brand world wasn’t ready to embrace portable people meters and so in February of last year, 3 years and $45 million dollars later, Project Apollo crash-landed due to the data duo’s inability to “. . . secure sufficient client commitments.”


Not one to fear getting back on the kicking horse, Nielsen once again assembled a “consortium” of 16 power retailers and several mega brands in 2006 to launch PRISM (Pioneering Research for an In-Store Metric), an even more ambitious project that relies on calculations, not gadgets, to achieve the once-unachievable: measuring the impact of in-store marketing activities and impressions. 


Well, here we are pushing into 2009 and 15 out of the original 16 retailers have stuck it out with Nielsen through the initial pilot and into next phase rollout.  Not a bad statistic . . . unless the one retailer that bowed out is (cue the music from Psycho) WALMART!  Ruh roh . . .


Although Nielsen is doing its best to minimize the impact of Walmart’s pull-out, the development has to be a crashing blow to all PRISM participants . . . and not just because Walmart controls a disproportionate share of sales in every major retail category (though that alone substantially decreases PRISM’s value proposition).  Surely there was some major lip-licking going on among the consortium members back in September, when Walmart announced the launch of its in-store Smart Network.

If Walmart shared even a few data crumbs from the Smart Network analysis (provided by DS-IQ with the group, wouldn’t it be great for the larger cause?  Alas, it is not in the stars . . . and I’ll posit, precisely BECAUSE Walmart transported its capabilities so far beyond the group with the Smart Network launch.  With Walmart deploying 27,000 digital screens chain wide by 2010, and DS-IQ’s constant refinements and granular category and item sales impact analysis, Walmart has the potential to singularly redefine “research for an in-store metric.”  In the meantime, I’m betting that PRISM will go the way of Apollo.


WRISM anyone?


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