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DRMA Spotlight: Going for Gold

1 Jun, 2011 By: Jackie Jones Response

Hawthorne Direct celebrates 25 successful years of bringing brands and DR together — and looks forward to 25 more — as founder Tim Hawthorne welcomes the next generation to the business: daughter Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, who will head the Los Angeles office.


Hawthorne Direct may be celebrating its silver anniversary, but what’s kept the DRTV agency successful for 25 years is its tendency to settle for no less than gold — from both clients and itself.

A knowledge-ridden focus on the direct response industry and a selective list of clients have kept the Fairfield, Iowa-based Hawthorne Direct at the top of its game in a very rough and tumble industry, founder Tim Hawthorne says.

“What have been really critical for us are the business ethics we’ve brought to the industry and that we live throughout our company,” Hawthorne says. “We demand honesty among ourselves, and we demand honesty from our clients — and that has really contributed to our longevity.”

It’s that honesty that drew Hawthorne’s daughter, Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, a former literary talent agent in Hollywood, to the DR business.

“What I love about being in the direct response world is how it is results-driven and attracts top and emerging brands,” says Hawthorne-Castro, director of client services in the company’s Los Angeles office. “Our clients are some of the best in the business, and we have had the opportunity to represent many amazing brands.”

Hawthorne Direct — which boasts 85 employees and bills about $175 million a year — was founded in 1986 on the idea of bringing long-form DRTV and big-name brands together.

“My background being a documentarian, I always felt that the more you tell, the more you sell, and that being able to take a product’s story and spin it over 28½ minutes would be a great asset to all brands,” Hawthorne says.

The first brand to jump on board — Time-Life — took about five years to land, but has been a client for the past 20. Though Hawthorne says it hasn’t always been easy to convince brands of DR’s benefits, more CFOs and CMOs are changing their tunes as the need for accountability grows.

“More and more officers are saying we should take a look at direct response television because there is accountability there, and more and more doors are getting opened,” he says. “There are always the few agencies and marketers who still think of DRTV as yell-and-sell, but a number of professional agencies and production companies have created many fine infomercials and short-form spots that present product benefits and features in a very upscale way, and protect the brand equity that companies are always so concerned with.”

“As the world becomes more and more accountable, brands depend on those accountable results as well,” Hawthorne-Castro adds. “This is where the future of advertising is, if it’s not there already.”

Plenty has changed in the DR industry during the past 25 years, from offer structures to multi-pay options to an enhanced look and feel of creative — all of which have impacted the evolution of DR. As “pioneers of the industry,” Hawthorne Direct has been there the whole time, Hawthorne says.

“What really makes Hawthorne Direct very unique in an industry that has some really quality companies is the intelligence that we bring to everything we do and the level of service we provide,” Hawthorne says. “We care about our clients’ success, and we are there every step of the way — providing them with input, feedback and guidance. That our service level is as high as it is, is something we’re very proud of.”

Hawthorne Direct is looking to grow in every channel of accountable advertising; is hoping to open offices in New York, Boston, Seattle and Austin; and is looking to add to its staff in digital and mobile. Hawthorne-Castro’s leadership of Hawthorne Direct’s L.A. office is a key part of the company’s growth, Hawthorne says.

“We are seeing a lot of work being done out of the L.A. office and a lot of growth opportunities,” he says. “Jessica is amazing to have as part of Hawthorne Direct. She has a very sharp business mind, and she really works well with people. Jessica has had a long career in the talent agency business and in Hollywood, and she’s able to add to our strategy and provide relationship-bonding elements to our client services that’s really beneficial to the company.”

“We work really hard, but we also have a good time doing it,” Hawthorne-Castro adds. “That’s what life and work should really be about.”

Showcasing the unparalled perks of accountable advertising to brands that might otherwise never venture into DR marketing is key to Hawthorne Direct’s success, but what will keep the agency successful for another 25 years is its emphasis on education.

“It’s always been important to me to provide education to other people in the business and to consumers through long-form and short-form — providing people with the understanding and knowledge of product features and benefits so they can make a rational buying decision vs. an emotional one,” Hawthorne says. “Educating consumers to make better buying decisions has been behind everything I’ve done in the industry.”

“I’m excited to be here and continue on with the growth of Hawthorne Direct,” Hawthorne-Castro adds. “We have a very bright future ahead of us.”■


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