Sunday, April 17, 2011

Solving the Brand+DRTV Equation

Mixing traditional advertising agencies with DRTV specialists can be a lot like pouring oil into water. While the two substances can exist in the same container without much problem, they never truly combine into one homogeneous mixture. And while there's no question of DRTV's value in a brand's overall marketing strategy, traditional agencies still tend to view the medium - and the tactics used by producers and media buyers within the space - with a dose of skepticism.

I guess it stands to reason, seeing that the first crop of infomercials and DRTV spots weren't exactly brand-worthy. Boisterous pitchmen hawked their wares while toll-free numbers flashed across the television screen, and overly anxious testimonials backed up products that claimed to solve the world's problems. Production values trailed far behind those of traditional commercials, with most DRTV relegated to after-midnight time slots.

Fast-forward to 2011, and the direct response landscape is much different. A combination of self-regulation, government oversight and the realization that diminishing numbers of people would buy junk from grainy, yell-and-sell commercials at 2 a.m. pushed DRTV to new limits. Attracted to the medium for its accountability, measurability and ability to connect directly with consumers, the brands plowed their way into DRTV, thus lending it even more credibility.

But even the new face of DRTV hasn't managed to convince all brand managers of the medium's influence and viability. Many of them still tune out when they're presented with the potential advantages of infomercials, and it's somewhat understandable. Frankly, in most cases it would be foolish to eliminate image commercials from a media mix and replace them with a DRTV-only campaign.

Enter the oil-and-water equation. Time and time again, we've seen that, despite the pushback from traditional advertising agencies, image spots and DRTV work together beautifully. One supports the other. Where the shorter formats massage the consumer's mind with positive associations, personality and feelings about a product or service, DRTV commercials lead viewers to the next stage.

Persuasive Power

DRTV picks up where branding leaves off by persuading consumers to take action by picking up the phone, visiting a Web site or catching a closer look during their next trip to the mall. A long-form DRTV program allows enough time to fully educate and excite an interested audience about a product, thanks to the 30 minutes a marketer has to take the viewer step-by-step through the persuasion process.

And of course there's the added benefit of DRTV creating brands, not just promoting existing brands. Famous brands like Proactiv Solution, Magic Jack, OxiClean, OrangeGlo, the George Foreman Grill, Beachbody, Snuggie, bareMinerals and Euro-Pro were birthed by DRTV and live on in retail - launched into mega brands at a fraction of the usual $150 million to $200 million to create a standard brand.

Such successes have driven more than one general advertising agency into the DRTV arena. After all, they thought to themselves, how hard could it be? The problem is that these agencies aren't equipped to handle direct response. DR agencies have years of proven response-generating techniques that traditional agencies are unfamiliar with. Those of us who specialize in this category understand the delicate touch points in the human psyche that can stimulate an immediate response - absolutely essential for creating self-sustaining marketing campaigns.

General agencies are catching onto these nuances, and either referring their clients' DRTV work to specialists, or hiring those experts to handle that particular aspect of a client's campaign. We've worked quite successfully with a dozen major agencies over the past 17 years. The relationships aren't always easy to manage, and their success or failure often depends on whether the traditional agency staff can check their egos at the door and allow direct response experts to do their jobs. When that happens, everyone wins, especially the client.
Author of over 175 published articles, Tim Hawthorne is Founder, Chairman and Executive Creative Director of Hawthorne Direct, a full service DRTV and New Media ad agency founded in 1986. Since then Hawthorne has produced or managed over 800 Direct Response TV campaigns for clients such as Apple, Braun, Discover Card, Time-Life, Nissan, Lawn Boy, Nikon, Oreck, Bose, and Heifer International. Tim is a co-founder of the Electronic Retailing Association, has delivered over 100 speeches worldwide and is the author of the definitive DRTV book, The Complete Guide to Infomercial Marketing. A cum laude graduate of Harvard, Tim was honored with the prestigious "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) in 2006.

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