Back to the New Media Future1 Oct, 2008 By: Response Contributor Response
From branders' discovery of DRTV to digital domination, taking a glance back at the media landscape will help those gearing up for 2009.
Everyone struck with Phelps "phever" during the 2008 Beijing Olympics is happily recovering while media buyers still feel the burn. Millions of Americans stayed glued to the tube as Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in the men's swimming competition, as direct response advertisers scrounged for inventory and affordable rates.
In the weeks following, Barack Obama and John McCain announced their presidential running mates, and then came the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. With an impending November election in full swing, and the unusually high bustle in broadcasting, it seemed appropriate to use the second installment of Response's semi-annual Media Buying & Planning Guide to take a look back over the past year — or four — to see where the industry's been in order to get where it's going in 2009.
Steady as She Grows
The direct response marketing industry matured substantially since the last round of summer Olympics and presidential candidates. Just before George W. Bush moved into a second term in office, the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) unveiled its self-regulation program, a system of checks, balances and consequences for pushing erroneous claims and bunk products — a considerable undertaking, especially with mounting pressure from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Marketers who only worked in direct response television (DRTV) since the early-1990s heyday of yell-and-sell infomercials were suddenly making decisions about online strategy. All the while, deep-pocketed pharmaceutical companies, which had became privy to the power of response rates just as quickly as federal laws let them loose on the airwaves, continued to pile into the DRTV space — waving in the rest of Madison Ave. to get a piece of performance-driven media.
Products like the George Foreman Grill and the Sharper Image's Ionic Breeze air purifier (not pictured) made millions of dollars on DRTV sales but their companies could not keep up longevity due to a lack of a long-term branding strategy.
In hindsight, one could argue that these challenges propelled the industry into the new digital age. Media buyers moved their clients from TV to online to retail using media campaigns that integrated both traditional and new media. And while others are still demanding concessions due to revenues lost with digital video recorders (DVR) and ad skipping, DR has a plan in place for that too.
The evolution cultivated an idea that came to be known as "response branding" — a strategy that involves strong branding efforts on the front end and regimented performance monitoring on the back end. The term was coined to describe hybrid advertising introduced during the influx of corporate marketers into the DR space. Traditional direct response marketers maintained that if a media campaign were positioned effectively, the product would sell and inherently brand itself. By 2008, this notion has dramatically shifted to the point where many DR advertisers are allocating budget for brand building.
The rise of TiVo and other cable-provided DVR systems have caused all advertisers — including DRTV advertisers — to seek new and creative ways to get their messages to the commercial-skipping masses.
Doug Garnett, founder and president of Atomic Direct, a Portland, Ore., advertising agency specializing in brands, consumer strategy and DRTV, as well as a member of Response's Editorial Advisory Board, is an advocate for this change. In an opinion column for Response's August 2008 issue, Garnett cited the mishaps of Salton, Sharper Image and RotoZip Tools — successful DR products that arguably branded themselves — as examples of companies that burned through short-term success without a long-term plan. He delivered a curt call to action: "Build Brands Now."