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Media Zone: The Top 4 DRTV Myths … Dispelled!

1 Nov, 2012 By: Timothy R. Hawthorne Response

Confused about the truths and rumors behind DRTV? Here are four realities to keep in mind as you plan your campaign


When you’re in an industry for nearly 30 years, and you’ve witnessed firsthand its birth, rise and maturation, you get to know the space inside and out. Along the way you figure out what others think they know about your industry and develop a mental “FAQ” that addresses and clarifies those assumptions.

These myths run rampant in the often-misunderstood DRTV advertising world, where everyone from brand advertising firms to marketers to customers have their own ideas about the industry’s inner workings. Here are four that we hear regularly, and the real truth behind them:

1. There’s an over-abundance of long-form DRTV media. New infomercial marketers think they’ll be able to choose from an endless list of avails. After all, anyone who watches TV in the wee hours can see that there’s plenty of time allocated to long-form, right? Wrong. In fact, demand for long-form is tight right now. In the most coveted time slots (before 8 p.m. or after 8 a.m., to coincide with specialized call center operational hours) marketers can gain footing by purchasing media in their local marketplaces instead of getting into bidding wars for national time slots. The bottom line: fast scaling up of media can be hampered by scarcity of long-form time and the constraints of call center operational hours.

2. There’s no relationship between DRTV and general advertising. Some companies jump into the DRTV pool thinking it’s a standalone entity. Incorrect! Short-form, in particular, relies heavily on the supply and demand of the general advertising community. When negotiating media buys and looking at schedules from the Food Network and the Travel Channel, for example, DRTV media buyers go head-to-head with major general advertisers in the pharmaceutical, automobile and banking industries. The situation heats up at the end of every quarter when inventory gets extremely tight because those larger groups — if they haven’t received the audience delivery that they need — must procure airings on a bonus basis. The bottom line: at certain times of the year, DRTV media space is pinched by activity in the general advertising arena.

3. All media testing should take place in local markets. First-time users of DRTV often incorrectly assume that local markets are the best testing ground for their shows. “We want to test this in New York and Los Angeles,” is a common request. This is both an ineffective and expensive proposition. You can test short-form in one or two local markets, but the best results come when you test on national cable networks, where the cost-per-household is often half that of local market areas. The bottom line: testing on national cable helps you reach a larger demographic and is more affordable on a cost-per-household basis.

4. You can still make your millions from TV alone. With just one in 25 DRTV shows achieving profitability from TV alone, the typical media efficiency ratio (MER) — the number that provides a snapshot of the success level of a media buy — is currently less than 1.0. Put simply, this means fewer consumers buy directly from TV these days. In fact, their purchasing habits have shifted. The most successful DRTV marketers use the medium as an exposure mechanism and then drive consumers to other “shopping cart” options online or at retail. The bottom line: view DRTV not as an end-all for sales, but as an educational, demonstrative medium that pushes consumers to retail or the Internet to make their final purchases.

The laundry list of myths doesn’t end here. Dispelling incorrect assumptions and educating companies on the truths of DRTV has become a daily exercise for us. Some think they can get top-quality short-form campaigns produced and on the air for $10,000; others are 100-percent certain that they have the next Tae Bo on their hands; and others don’t understand that consumers can tell the difference between a YouTube video and a well-produced commercial. The myths keep emerging … and we’ll keep dispelling them. ■


About the Author: Timothy R. Hawthorne


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