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Direct Response Marketing

Field Reports - February 2012

1 Feb, 2012 By: Jackie Jones, Thomas Haire Response


Springer’s ‘Circus’ Remains a Haven for DRTV Marketers

Springer's 'Circus' remains a haven for DRTV MarketersDuring its 21-year nationally syndicated run, “The Jerry Springer Show” has earned a reputation for outrageous guests, pop culture relevance and, well, food fights. However, while “Jerry” has been mocked by seemingly every pop culture comedy outlet, the show’s popularity remains as high as ever.

Now broadcast on nearly 200 U.S. TV stations (thanks to NBC Universal’s syndication efforts), the show boasts more than 2.1 million daily viewers — and has outlasted more than 70 other talk shows during its time in the ever-more-competitive daytime TV marketplace. What most people may not realize, though, is the role DRTV has played in making “Jerry” a success not only with viewers but with marketers as well.

“Our show’s advertisers are incredibly loyal for one reason only — it works,” Springer told Response in a recent exclusive interview. “Amazingly, the worse the economy gets, the better our business gets. So many of our sponsors are companies and firms whose products and services are needed at the time of a downturn. And once advertisers come on board, we don’t have to call them to keep them. It becomes a salesperson’s easiest sell.”

Springer, who has parlayed the show’s success into a number of additional TV and film gigs (including hosting NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” in 2007 and 2008 and the fictionalized biopic of the “Jerry” show, 1998’s “Ringmaster”), has a self-effacing sense of humor that comes through well over the phone. The show’s popularity makes it an important consideration for many DRTV media buyers. He added, “One of the reasons we’ve continued for 21 years is that we’ve got a loyal audience. Advertisers want the phone to ring and they know that if they advertise here, it will.”

The former mayor of Cincinnati became a popular news anchor on the city’s NBC affiliate in the 1980s. But he didn’t have an itch to become a talk-show host initially. “NBC Cincinnati was a company-owned station, which meant the company also owned talk shows like ‘Donahue’ and ‘Sally,’” Springer recalled. “I was asked to lunch by the CEO when Phil (Donahue) was getting close to retiring. He told me, ‘We’re starting a new talk show, and you’re hosting it.’ I asked him, ‘Are you drunk?’”

Springer agreed when the company allowed him to continue doing the news in Cincinnati while taping the talk show in Chicago. “After two years, that got to be old,” Springer said. And focusing on the talk show couldn’t have been a better choice.

“Sure, the show is just stupid, but it has a niche — there’s no other show like it,” Springer said. “No one’s trying to be like it, everyone else just tries to take on the ‘Oprah’ model. But we’ve built a loyal base for 21 years. When you say, ‘That’s a Jerry Springer moment,’ even those that don’t watch regularly know what you’re talking about.”

Viewership consists of two big demographics, according to Springer: young people (high school and college age, who see the show as “a frat party, a hoot,” Springer said) and middle-income and below viewers. “Across all races and genders, we have a large viewership from the lower half of American income levels, and with the younger demographic, it spans all income brackets,” Springer said.

And that has helped it build a definite advantage for certain sectors of DR advertisers — trade schools, attorneys, financial services. “You always know who’s watching — that’s what makes us one of the real home run shows for DR,” Springer contended. “The moment our advertisers’ spots run, they know their phones are going to ring. Our viewers often have immediate needs that our advertisers can fulfill. DR has become our lifeblood, to be honest. I even do ads for some of our clients.”

The politically engaged Springer sees no end in sight for the program or for his public-speaking schedule. “As long as I’m healthy, I have no plans to stop,” he said. “I don’t need it to make a living anymore, but at my age, I do things for two reasons: if they are fun or if they are important. I do this because it’s fun. I do the political stuff because it’s important to me — every week, I am somewhere giving political speeches. I talk at universities, county dinners in order to help raise money for mostly liberal causes.”

But it’s the fun side — “The Jerry Springer Show” — that remains a key to the DR marketplace, and to Springer’s sense of humor. “I think it comes through that I don’t take it seriously,” he said of the show’s circus-like atmosphere. “The key in TV, in politics, in life, is authenticity. Just be who you are. People really appreciate that. I never become part of the circus. I don’t curse, fight or do crazy things. I tell jokes about it, and that’s what works.”

Turner Believes Horizon Will Continue Its Recent Winning Streak

Gene Turner is senior vice president and managing director of the direct marketing division of New York-based Horizon Media Inc. The group services accounts across the nation, including recent client additions Publisher’s Clearing House, Clearwire, Blockbuster and 1-800-DENTIST.

Horizon’s direct division enters 2012 on a hot streak that has seen it more than double its personnel since 2009, while contributing extensive year-over-year growth to the agency. Recently, Response sat down with Turner to discuss Horizon’s recent successes and the overall direct response media landscape.

Q: How has the direct division of Horizon Media grown in recent years?

A: For the past three years, Horizon’s direct division has doubled year-over-year billings each year and grown our team from 20 direct marketing experts to 45. If you look back six years, we were delivering solutions that were in line with what other direct marketing agencies were offering and three years ago we decided to start rewriting the book on how it should be done. We listened to the needs of our clients and developed tailored, more compelling propositions for today’s marketplace that truly address the varying marketing needs of clients across the advertising spectrum. By offering clients more refined marketing opportunities, we have been able to positively affect measurable sales results.

Q: How does your team maximize the services your division offers?

A: The core nucleus of our team has been together for five-plus years, and like a sports team that has worked together for many years, we have developed a shorthand that helps us focus our talents toward achieving key performance indicators. At the same time, everyone gets that the first “C” in every KPI equation represents cost. This is a variable we can — and do — control better than anyone. We take advantage of the considerable resources available through Horizon Media and invest in the development of talent to ensure one consistent voice for all brands. First, all of our strategists are cross-trained in brand and direct marketing techniques. Second, the team is fluent in all of Horizon’s syndicated and proprietary research tools. And, finally, DR buyers meet regularly with their general market counterparts so that they maintain a “big picture” of the overall marketplace

Q: How crucial is the idea of driving brand creation with DRTV to your average customer?

A: Our clients understand that all communications — DRTV, brand TV, social, digital, print, audio, traditional or non-traditional media, as well as point-of-sale and packaging influences — work together to transform a product into a brand. Even in these days of ultra-fragmented media, television of any kind retains its ability to build brands quickly due to its relatively high reach and targeted impact.

Q: What role do analytics play in Horizon Media’s customer service? How do those analytics span the ever-growing media options available?

A: We welcome and embrace analytics as the yardstick that gives our clients proof-positive information reflecting that our programs are truly effective. We take a leading role with our clients and other agency partners to develop analytic solutions appropriate to all media and are active with a broad array of analytic suppliers to pursue cross-platform analytic solutions.

Q: Who are some of your newer clients and why do you believe they chose Horizon? What are those clients looking to accomplish with their newer campaigns?

A: Coming off the Publisher’s Clearing House Win in May and Clearwire win that was announced three months ago, we were awarded both the Blockbuster and 1-800-DENTIST businesses. Both wins were really about our ability to balance branding and acquisition goals. Michael Turner, president of 1-800-DENTIST, told us, “We’re excited to have Horizon Media on board to help us optimize and grow our national media presence. We looked at several top-notch media agencies, but in the end, our decision came down to the combination of Horizon’s strategic thinking and analytical prowess.” Similarly, Kevin Lewis, chief marketing officer for Blockbuster, said,“Blockbuster is excited to have the experience and expertise of Horizon Media in helping us grow our brand.”

Q: Where do you see the DR media landscape in 18-36 months — and where does Horizon Media fit?

A: During the next two to three years, we expect further blending and blurring of the lines between DR and brand media. We already see creative that is universally described as a “hybrid” approach, and we believe that clients will demand that both sales — overnight — and brand — over time — be accomplished in a single execution. Will hard hitting 120-second DR spots go away? No, we don’t think so, but increasingly, creative and media will take on both tasks simultaneously. Horizon, with its full-spectrum approach to marketing planning, has been and will continue to be on the cutting edge of DR/brand innovation.

FTC Bans Payment Processor from Using New Method

FTC Band Payment Processor from Using New MethodWASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled charges against payment processor Landmark Clearing Inc. and three of its principals over allegations they used a new payment method called “remotely created payment orders” to debit millions of dollars from consumers’ accounts without their consent.

The settlement furthers the FTC’s ongoing efforts to protect consumers during the economic downturn by monitoring merchants and all parties who participate in “defrauding consumers,” according to an official statement by the commission.

“The return rates posted by Landmark’s clients provided obvious signs that they were engaged in dubious practices,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But the defendants looked the other way. Payment processors who reach into consumer accounts on behalf of their clients engaged in fraud will be held accountable.”

According to the FTC, Landmark processed more than 110,000 remotely created payment orders with a value of more than $5.3 million on behalf of its client Direct Benefits Group (DBG), of which more than 70 percent were rejected and returned. Landmark also processed more than $5.7 million in debits for client Platinum Online Group, of which more than 83 percent were rejected and returned.

“Landmark’s payment processing activities caused substantial injury to thousands of consumers, often those who could least afford to have funds unexpectedly taken from their accounts without authorization,” the FTC said. “As a result of the unauthorized debits, many consumers suffered significant costs from overdraft and bounced check fees, plus the time and expense of closing bank accounts, opening new ones and ordering new checks.”

“Landmark’s clients routinely failed to obtain consumers’ authorization for the debits,” the FTC added. “By continuing to process these debits, Landmark played a critical role in its clients’ unlawful business practices.”

The FTC settlement prohibits Landmark from processing payments through remotely created payment orders and a similar method called remotely created checks, but does permit Landmark to provide other forms of payment processing. As part of the settlement, the defendants have also agreed to a $1.5 million judgment that will be suspended upon payment of $136,000 and the surrender of a parcel of land, according to the FTC. The full $1.5 million will be owed if the defendants are found to have misrepresented their financial condition or fail to meets the terms of the settlement.

News Corner

News Corner> DR industry veteran Ray Golden has started a special educational fund for his daughter Amber’s education. Amber Golden has gone through five heart surgeries in her young life and is now in her third year of pursuing a nursing degree in order to give back like those who have helped her. Join Response and the DRMA in supporting Ray Golden and his daughter by sending a donation to: The Amber Golden Education Fund, c/o Wells Fargo Bank N.A., P.O. Box 3408, Omaha, NE 68103. Make checks payable to the Amber Golden Education Fund. For more information, you can also E-mail goldendrtv@aol.com. Thanks for your support.

> Euro RSCG Edge welcomes Nicola de la Salle to its team as director of business development. She has more than 10 years experience in the DR industry, serving most recently as vice president of sales and marketing for Thill Logistics Inc.

> Chelle Lewis joins Lead Generation Technologies as its vice president of media.

> MTV is moving its upfront presentation from February to April 26 after enjoying improved ratings numbers, various media outlets report.

> Razor & Tie’s KIDZ BOP and SiriusXM team up to launch KIDZ BOP Block Party!, a two-hour weekly show that premiered on Kids Place Live on Jan. 13.


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