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Everything Old Is New Again

1 May, 2009 By: Jacqueline Renfrow Response

Media buying in a recession means taking another look at the power of direct response.

TV Thriving on Multi-Media

As advertisers look to find increased accountability in media, they are turning toward integrated, multi-media models. "From a DR standpoint, integration is more about driving increased response than improving audience reach and frequency," says Yallen. "The continued convergence of online and offline consumption will continue to create more opportunities in integration between these media."

ABC Family is one cable network that has found success in its integrated online and television platform for advertisers. Recently restructured, ABC now employs the same sales teams online and on-air, making it a one-stop shop for advertisers. Paul Teja, vice president, direct market sales for ABC Family, understands that when it comes to selling multi-media campaigns, often an agency employs separate buyers for television and online since its a totally different language.

CNN's Greg D'Alba, senior vice president and COO of ad sales, concurs, adding, "You're going to get more for your money in this marketplace if you have content that can integrate from platform to platform." He says that new media content needs to be able to go from the living room to the desktop to the mobile phone and to the workout center. And while D'Alba still sees television as the strongest linear platform, launching ads on other platforms only helps strengthen TV's reach. He credits CNN's strong digital product offerings for putting it at the top of the pile for news networks.

One of the hardest parts of a multi-media campaign is measuring response, especially in a volatile economy (which makes it difficult to project audience reaction based on historical results). "Planning and buying today requires a thorough understanding of the economic and sociological factors that impact human behavior," says Yallen. "The clear challenge is to determine which media made the needle move."

However, despite the extra level of training and resources necessary to run integrated campaigns, a marketer cannot compete in today's market without it. "Multi-channel campaigns are critical to success, you need to have all of the components of a campaign running — TV, online, mobile, print, retail. Using this method, marketers get every possible sale," says Kevin Lyons, president of Opportunity Media Inc., which represents Lifetime Networks for long-form sales.

DR Brings Media Buying Full-Circle

Direct response television is not taking as much of a hit in the recession as traditional TV buys, partly because performance and supply-and-demand dictate the rates. And even in this down market, many products and services are still creating a demand from the consumer. "Due to the decline in general advertising dollars, stations are opting to open up more paid programming spots," says Bill Raymond, executive vice president, Cannella Response Television. "In these cases, stations can generate more revenue from paid programming than from selling traditional spot advertising."

Another positive force behind direct response is its ability to be tracked and tweaked on a daily basis, which is what marketers are forced to do in an unsteady economy. Gobel refers to marketers being in "reaction mode," basing media rates according to demand. With some pullback on the short-form side, she says there is more space opening up for long-form DR.

Even in this economy, D'Alba sees new categories emerging in the DR space where people need services and products. "No doubt about it, advertisers and brands need to build imagery," says D'Alba. "But an incredible opportunity exists for products to apply direct-to-consumer messaging — whenever and however they want — through DRTV." And integrating DRTV with the online space allows consumers the ability to purchase whenever and wherever they want.

So what does the media industry do in times like these? Return to basic DR marketing. D'Alba describes the difference between "recession resilience" and "recession-proof." Strong brands that integrate vertically are more recession resilient. "The economy is not great for any media company, however, even with direct response, money is being spent on brand strength and vertically," he says. "Everyone who is doing well and who survived the first quarter are vertically integrated."

A few years ago, when content was doing well horizontally, money was being spent across the board. But now, when money is being spent vertically, DR is king. For DR, it's about value based on a product sale. D'Alba says that CNN has seen much success in this economy by leveraging this strategy.

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