Piecing It Together1 Sep, 2008 By: Bridget McCrea Response
The lines between DR and traditional agencies continue to blur as clients seek one-stop shopping.
Time was that traditional agencies saw their DRTV cousins as threats, lurking in the wings ready to chip away at the control that the brand agencies had worked so hard to establish. As DR matured as a medium, however, those lines began to blur and the phrase "never the twain shall meet" began to fade into the past. And while no single agency can claim to be a true one-stop-shop for users of both DR and traditional advertising, the lines between the two entities continue to blur.
"On one side, the successful DR [marketers] are growing beyond one or two products and starting to think more like traditional marketers," says Craig Aramaki, president at Euro RSCG Edge in Portland, Ore. "At the same time, we're seeing more traditional advertisers and marketers realize the value of spending money on ROI-focused media that's more measurable and accountable."
As a result, Aramaki says traditional advertisers are seeking out agencies that can provide DR-oriented services, whether they are handled in-house (by "blending" two agencies, as Euro RSCG Edge has done) or outsourced to an experienced DR agency (a move that other traditional advertising firms are taking).
This campaign for the California State Automobilie Association, which serves Northern California, was crafted in a cooperative effort by an independent traditional ad agency and a DR-centric agency.
Mark Hodor, vice president of direct response for Carat in Chicago, has also observed an upswing in the blending of general agency and DR agency capabilities, and calls it "the smart thing to do, based on client demand." Unfortunately for those clients, he adds, such mashing of capabilities isn't always done very well.
"For the longest time, DR was just another line item on a flowchart, which isn't blending," says Hodor, who adds that Carat merged its traditional, digital and DR offerings into a single unit about a year ago. "Blending comes when results of all media are looked at holistically and ultimately budgetary decisions are made by planners to fund the media combination that can move a client's brand and achieve desired sales results in the most efficient way."
According to Carl Langrock, president and COO at COREMedia Systems in Fairfield, N.J., the blending of DR and traditional advertising capabilities dates back to the late 1990s, and was largely driven by big pharmaceutical firms' entry into the DR space. "These days it's hard to come up with a product category that doesn't buy DR," says Langrock.
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Doug Garnett, president, Atomic Direct in Portland, Ore., and a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board, says his firm frequently "crosses over" into traditional agency territory. The most successful campaigns, he says, are those that blend the work itself, rather than the individual agencies' capabilities. That's because few traditional agencies can do DR right, and often wind up throwing toll-free numbers onto spots and infomercials that don't meet the basic standards or requirements of direct response.
"Those types of shows are pretty much guaranteed not to generate response," says Garnett. What works better, he adds, is when general agencies recognize DR's specialized nature and bring in experienced agencies to handle that aspect of the campaign. Atomic Direct, for example, worked with a San Francisco-based general agency to create a campaign for the California State Automobile Association. "They looked around for a DRTV specialist to handle that aspect of the campaign, and it worked out very well," says Garnett. "It was a pairing of the best traditional agency and the best DRTV work in one."
Such "blending" of capabilities tends to produce the best results when the DR component is addressed early in the planning stages — and not treated as an afterthought. Garnett says getting to that point can take time, but is highly effective once the traditional agency realizes the value of involving DR on the front end. "When we are in on the planning," says Garnett, "we can give advice on whether DR is right for the client and address other issues early in the game."