Single-source data (also singlesource, single source) is the measurement of TV and other media/marketing exposure, and purchase behavior, over time for the same individual or household. This measurement is gauged through the collection of data components supplied by one or more parties overlapped through a single, integrated system of data collection. The means by which these data are stored is known as a single-source database.
In TV advertising measurement, single-source data are used to explore an individual’s loyalty and buying behavior in relation to advertising exposure within different windows of time – e.g. year, quarter, month, week. In this sense, single-source data is a compilation of (1) Home-scanned sales records and/or loyalty card purchases from retail or grocery stores and other commerce operations, (2) TV tune-in data from cable set top boxes or people meters (pushbutton or passive) or household tuning meters, and (3) Household demographic information.
The value of single-source data lies in the fact that it is highly disaggregate across individuals and within time. Single-source data reveals differences among households’ exposure to a brand’s ads and their purchases of those brands within advertising fluctuations.
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"Project Apollo" was designed to be a single source, national market research service based on Nielsen's Homescan technology for measuring consumer purchase behavior, combined with Arbitron's Portable People Meter system, measuring electronic media exposure. In January 2006, The Nielsen Company and Arbitron Inc. completed the deployment of a national pilot panel of more than 11,000 persons in 5,000 households. Seven advertisers (P&G, Unilever, Wal*Mart, Pfizer, Pepsi, Kraft), S.C. Johnson, signed on as members of the Project Apollo Steering Committee. The Committee worked with Arbitron and Nielsen to evaluate the utility of multi-media and purchase information from a common sample of consumers. Individuals within the sample were given incentives to voluntarily carry Arbitron's Portable People Meter, a small, pager-sized device that collects the person's exposure to electronic media sources: broadcast television networks, cable networks, and network radio as well as audio-based commercials broadcast on these platforms. Consumer exposure to other media such as newspapers, magazines and circulars were collected through additional survey instruments. The project was shuttered in February 2008 due to sample size, cost and insufficient client commitment.
Prior to Apollo there were other attempts to provide single source measurement in the U.S., including Arbitron’s ScanAmerica, which used pushbutton peoplemeters; IRI’s use of household tuning meters in its BehaviorScan markets; Adtel; and ERIM. Outside the U.S. there have also been such efforts which have been discontinued except in England and in France where small single source panels survive. In Germany and the Netherlands, research agency Gfk is currently running single source panels under the name "Media Efficiency Panel" (MEP). In MEP online behavior and advertising contacts are measured in detail using a Nurago browser plug-in. Off-line media consumption is measured using validated media consumption questionnaires. FMCG purchases are captured using a household scanner and durable purchases using an online system asking respondents to check in and register what goods they bought, where they bought it and for what price. The German panel was launched in 2008 and is currently experimenting with audio measurement using a mobile phone to capture advertising contacts on TV. More than 70 studies have currently been done in this panel by a large variety of advertisers. The Dutch panel was launched in July 2010.
To circumvent the problem of unsustainable costs which brought down Project Apollo, cross-media analytics company All Media Count uses survey data from a longitudinal panel and behavioral modeling to generate individual panelists' daily media contact data for more than 10,000 media vehicles across eleven media types in China.
The term “single source” is often credited to Colin McDonald who while at BMRB in England in 1966 used purchase and viewing diaries rather than electronic means to conduct the first quasi-single source measurement. Although electronic means of data capture are preferred for accuracy and to minimize respondent fatigue, cost-effective methods for doing this do not yet exist for several media (magazines, newspapers, subway, transport, ambient). Also, many markets - such as China - do not have universal electronic measurement, even for TV. Services such as MRI, Roy Morgan, Simmons, TGI and others around the world which collect such information by non-electronic or hybrid means are broadly considered to be single source, as long as the data are obtained from a single panel of respondents.
Despite enthusiasm and the success of such data, single source has been plagued by high costs and small sample sizes, due to the cost of getting people to do all the work associated with home barcode scanning and pushing buttons on peoplemeters or even carrying and uploading from passive peoplemeters.
- [Poltrack, D. F. (1996). Single vs. double source data for TV program selection. Journal of Advertising Research.]
- Tellis, G. J. (2004). Effective advertising: understanding when, how, and why advertising works. SAGE.[page needed]
- [McClellan, S. (2008, February 25). Arbitron, Nielsen End Project Apollo. New York, NY, United States.]