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Direct Response Marketing

Akoo Arrives

1 Sep, 2011 By: Thomas Haire Response

Niko Drakoulis and Billy Campbell combine TV, mobile, social and local retail into the TV business’ newest — and perhaps most potent — DR outlet.


“When I came to Discovery in 2002, ratings were slumping,” Campbell says. “Within those five years, we brought in the top advertising sales person in the business — Joe Abruzzese — and developed a number of hit shows for all of our networks by staying true to our brands and our personalities. Mike Rowe, Bear Grylls, Anthony Bourdain, Dr. Oz — all of those personalities came to life at Discovery. My goal at Akoo is to replicate that in a different form.”

Campbell — whose stint at Discovery also saw double-digit ratings increases for Discovery Channel and TLC, as well as development and production of “Planet Earth,” cable TV’s highest-rated natural history program of all time — says Akoo was a unique opportunity for him. “The most fun you can have as a media executive is to work on creative and programming,” he contends. “I love the possibilities at Akoo — creatively, with programming, with marketing, with connecting with an audience. All of it is unique.”

He adds that programming and personalities will be “the key to distinguish ourselves,” mentioning new branding for Akoo as “America’s Coolest TV Network.” Campbell adds, “Magnetism and reward are two key words at Akoo.”

And since word got out about Akoo’s Nielsen coup in the first quarter of 2011, the network’s status has only grown. “Within six weeks of the Nielsen rating, things became materially different for Akoo,” Campbell says. “Marketers are becoming more engaged and we’ve added two new personalities to our talent roster.”

An Entertainment Platform With Immediate ROI

Visitors to Akoo Pavilions in 161 malls across America can use their mobile phones to do things like enter text sweepstakes (like this one for an XBOX 360) or select music videos on the entertainment screen of the company’s dual-screen displays.

Those new personalities are only the beginning for Akoo. Its pavilions not only draw 64 million consumers monthly, but those consumers generally spend 20-30 minutes seated in front of Akoo’s interactive entertainment programming. While there, consumers can make on-demand content requests, connect with friends via social media networks including Facebook and Twitter, and access geo-targeted mobile coupons and exclusive special offers via their personal mobile devices and tablets.

“It’s the only network that includes the combination of in-home, online and out-of-home TV with mobile, social and local marketing capabilities,” Drakoulis says. “We create a rewarding entertainment experience, where consumers are entertained and inspired to take advantage of rewards from our marketing partners.”

Campbell adds, “Our system, our network, is tailor-made for DR. DR is interactivity, and with Akoo, interactivity is an arm’s length away — on your mobile device in the palm of your hand. Our technology allows us to skip some steps in a normal DRTV offer, with SMS text and other mobile opportunities.”

Each Akoo Pavilion features a dual-screen set-up with the TV network’s on-demand content on the right screen and marketing content on the left screen. “The left screen is the marketing channel that allows our viewers to connect with our content, download our app or get marketing offers from our partners,” Drakoulis says. “It’s about connecting both screens with a mobile device — use it to pick the next song on the right, and use it to download a coupon to a local retailer on the left.”

He adds that the direct response opportunities Akoo provides are all about ROI. “When it comes to DR, Akoo is another great way from brands to measure,” Drakoulis contends. “The ROI is immediately measurable by pushing through a DR message with a coupon or special offer locally. Akoo allows DR marketers to integrate mobile with local, social and TV to drive that immediate measurement.”

Campbell talks about a recent campaign Akoo did with Starbucks Coffee as an example of its effectiveness. “We worked with Starbucks to offer a half-price Frappuccino beverage between 3-5 p.m. in the malls where Akoo and Starbucks cohabitate,” he says. “Those hours are a downtime for Starbucks’ stores, and they came to us for innovative ideas how to get more traffic. There was interactivity to it, as Starbucks created content for the right screen while showing the offer on the left. It was a simple message: Go here. Go now. Half off.”

But the Akoo team didn’t just leave it at that. “We added an interactive component with our own incentive. Consumers were told that if they went to Starbucks, opened Howard Schultz’s book to page 33 and texted us the last word on the page, they’d receive a code to enter an Akoo sweepstakes that week. Thousands of people went to the stores, and Starbucks and its agency were just knocked out,” Campbell contends.

Drakoulis says that consumer engagement and ROI is “unmatched” for Akoo’s brand partners. He points to XBOX 360, Samsung and Microsoft as other marketers who have experienced success. “XBOX 360 has been a great partner, and they really turn up their support in the fourth-quarter,” he says. “The campaigns for Samsung showed double-digit consumer recall. The platform just touches consumers in every way.”

DR at a ‘Macro’ Level

Akoo delivers its message to advertising and media agencies regularly — and since the network’s Nielsen triumph, that message is resonating even louder.

“We needed that certification from Nielsen, and we’re now seen as an industry leader in the agency hallways,” Drakoulis says. “Agency partners want clarity and transparency from us, and the concept of Akoo’s two screens tied together to create a complete message with a call-to-action that incorporates mobile, social and local is certainly making the network a clear choice for forward-thinking marketers and agencies.”

Drakoulis calls Akoo’s agency partners “critical to our success.” He adds, “Once they are educated, they can represent the value Akoo brings to their clients. You have to know us and understand us — then you can accept us, before you end up demanding us.”

The social aspect, Campbell says, is growing rapidly with Akoo’s links to Facebook and Twitter. “You can tie Akoo into Facebook through an app,” he says. “When you request a video through your phone, you can link to Facebook and let your friends know where you are and what you’re listening to, thanks to Akoo. In the past six months, we’ve grown to 250,000 Facebook fans, and we want to at least double that by year’s end.”

Drakoulis says plans to take the in-home portion of Akoo to new heights are at the forefront of future concepts. “Consumers have been introduced to Akoo’s content experiences in our pavilions,” he says. “But how do we get them to join in with our programming at home? Our interactive technology has been awarded patents in major global markets — most importantly the U.S. and China — with more to come. The key is taking the core of that tech platform that drives our out-of-home network and integrating it with set-top boxes, connected TV apps, game consoles and more. Then consumers can use their mobile devices to tab through apps and work to control their TVs.”

Still, in looking ahead, Campbell comes back to the DR opportunities available for marketers and consumers using the Akoo technology and model as the key. “With where DR has come, every single communication can be classified as DR,” he says. “Mobile, social, TV, whatever — the entire space is now a DR space. What does a marketer want when making an offer? A direct response. What do consumers want when asking questions of a brand? A direct response. Akoo is direct response taken to the macro level.” ■

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