In a significant step towards accurately measuring what people watch on television and at what times, Mediaedge:cia, MindShare, OMD, Starcom and UM7 have each contributed cash to get the project up and running.
Codenamed Project Illumination, the people meters are designed to give advertisers, agencies and broadcasters reliable data on viewing habits, which will in turn help them to make more informed buying decisions in TV.
The Project Illumination Governance Council, which includes representatives from Unilever and Procter & Gamble, OMD's parent company Omnicom Media Group, and Mediaedge:cia will manage the funds.
"This is a significant development for us and a positive step on the road to success," said Jan Zijderveld, chairman of Unilever Middle East and the GCC Association of Advertisers. "It clearly signals the seriousness of the project and the support of our industry in this future-defining initiative."
Dutch consultancy PointLogic, which has been hired to advise on the project, has also briefed the Project Illumination board on developments.
"Cynics may have to review their position," said Elie Khouri, regional managing director of Omnicom Media Group. "Previous similar initiatives may have fallen short of expectations but Project Illumination is committed to meeting the industry's needs. This is the first proof of this commitment."
The first data from people meters in Saudi Arabia is expected next year.