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Bridging the Gap

1 Sep, 2009 By: Bridget McCrea Response

Bridging the Gap

"Consumers will stick with a brand, and possibly even pay more than what competitors are charging, simply due to loyalty," says Karlin, who factors these issues into all of his clients' campaigns, including those that don't include a general advertising element. "We work with a lot of financial services, pharmaceutical, healthcare and insurance firms — all of which are concerned about their images, their positioning in the market and their brands."

When it's time to introduce the DR element, Karlin says he avoids "falling in love" with the product itself and instead looks specifically at the features that it provides to consumers. "That's a huge difference from the general advertising side, where you promote the benefits of a product," Karlin explains. "When you show viewers how a products slices, dices and chops, you're giving them the features. On the branding side, however, you might look at how the product can prepare a gourmet meal in minutes."

That dichotomy translates over to the campaign's reporting mechanism, which varies greatly depending on whether you're talking about DR or general agency work. "We've seen clients divide their budgets, knowing that they need a DR element and a branding element," says Jacobs. While general agency advertising is reported on a cost-per-thousand basis, DR is based on cost-per-lead, or the amount of money it costs to generate a phone or Web sale, which is sometimes allocated to a "third" budget category.

From the client perspective, Jacobs says the effective blending of DRTV and general advertising comes down to media planning. The problem, he adds, is that most general agencies are accustomed to buying based on budget, rather than on efficiencies and ROI. That strategy can result in major inefficiencies for blended campaigns that don't include the expertise of an experienced DR agency.

"If a client sets aside a certain budget for the DR portion of the campaign, and if the general agency is buying the media and doesn't want to (or, doesn't know how to) negotiate, then it gets inefficient pretty quickly," says Jacobs. "DR agencies, on the other hand, know that the direct response buy is a living, breathing document that's always changing to create efficiencies for the marketer."

Mixing It Up

As consumers become more discerning about how they spend their money, and as marketers demand more and more from their advertising dollars, expect to see expanded convergence of general advertising and DR in the future. "It's definitely a trend that's going to continue, and that's a good thing," says Hodor, who acknowledges that there is still "a lot of work to be done" in the arena where DR and general advertising intertwine.

"For it to work, everyone has to be on board and truly understand what the goals are," says Hodor. "From budgeting to branding to dealing with the internal politics on the client side, there's a lot to coordinate. The best approach is to come up with a game plan for the specific brand, and ensure that everyone follows it."

Jacobs says that as clients become sophisticated to the ways and benefits of DRTV, more will ask that the element be incorporated into their advertising campaigns. That will lead to greater collaboration among agencies and an increasingly streamlined process for blending general agency work with direct response.

"As more clients put DR into their plans, it will be up to us as direct response media buying firms to work together successfully with general agencies," says Jacobs, "and serve as a buying group for agencies that lack the DR capabilities."

According to Gross, much of that growth will come from the brand side, where an ever-increasing number of companies are waking up to the value of direct response, and as a result, are forcing the successful "blending" of DR and general agencies. He expects the trend to continue well into the future.

"Direct response has evolved from the slicer-and-dicer, yell-and-sell commercials of old and into categories that we've never seen before, like financial services and medical practices," says Gross. "As a result, the door is opening up pretty wide for DR agencies that can work hand-in-hand with the agency of record."

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About the Author: Bridget McCrea

Bridget McCrea

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