Kodak Inks a New DRTV Blockbuster1 May, 2008 By: Thomas Haire Response
Rick Allen says the wildly successful long-form campaign for the company's new EasyShare printer is just the first of many direct response initiatives to come for the nation's longest-lasting photography brand.
"Direct response TV gave us the control we needed in telling our story, and the long-form option allowed us to roll out the right information so that consumers could absorb and process it," says Rick Allen, worldwide director, advertising & branding, for Eastman Kodak Co.'s consumer digital group. "The EasyShare printer line that rolled out in 2007 was a completely new concept for Kodak and we had to get that story out. It would have been much harder to do in traditional advertising vehicles. DRTV gave us the flexibility to control our message."
And what a message it turned out to be. Kodak's DRTV campaign for the EasyShare 5300 all-in-one printer — one of three in a line introduced by the company in early 2007 — debuted shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday last November, but was off the air within 30 days. The reason? Quite simply, Kodak sold out of the printers from a DRTV inventory. In fact, nearly 300,000 EasyShare printers were sold during the campaign.
"Our conversion rate on the phone was about 50 percent, with the other 50 percent who didn't order at the time asking for more information, such as where is it available at retail," contends Allen, who is based in the company's Rochester, N.Y., headquarters. "Considering about 30 percent of our sales came through the Web site promoted in the show and that retail sales did exceedingly well, it appears that many of that 50 percent who didn't order on the phone may have purchased the printer via the Web or at retail."
Considering this was the nearly 130-year old company's first educated foray into the DRTV space, you'd think it would have been a slow and measured process. However, Allen — a 23-year veteran of Eastman Kodak, but with just 18 months in his current role — says that the agreement to use long-form DRTV by everyone involved in marketing the product took place a mere seven weeks before the campaign first aired. "Only because we had a great internal team and the best agency partners were we able to get this done in seven weeks," he adds. "We had the people with the right expertise and information."
That team's experience, including those from the agency, media and back-end partners tabbed by Kodak, has led to a new interest in DRTV among many different Kodak divisions. And with the campaign set to resurface this month, it looks like direct response has a new set of believers at a company long known as the innovator in the photography market.
A History of Commitment
Kodak's long history includes many firsts in the photography market (see sidebar). "Kodak invented the digital camera in 1976," Allen says. "And, though most don't realize it because the film part of the business overshadowed it until this decade, the company has been in the digital business, in either the professional or consumer market, since 1990."
Host Caroline Rhea came in prepared to shoot the long-form DRTV show after using an EasyShare printer in her home. "She was a convert," says Rick Allen of Kodak.
However, the company fell behind competitors in the digital market in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Kodak was surprised at how rapidly the digital market overtook the film market. Allen says Kodak was only the No. 7 digital photography brand in the U.S. as late as 2002, before bringing the EasyShare camera brand to life. Today, Kodak's digital photography equipment is the No. 1 brand in America — a position the company has grown used to throughout its history.
Allen's personal history at Kodak reaches back 23 years. After earning an electrical engineering degree and working in that field for two years, Allen returned to school, earning an MBA in marketing and finance from Syracuse University. During his second year in the program, he was working at the IBM product center when he received a phone call.
"The caller was working on a venture team at Kodak and looking for MBA candidates with a technical background," Allen says. "The new division was called Lamdek Fiber Optics. Being in on a new venture — everyone in marketing should have an experience like that. You have to wear so many different hats."
From Lamdek, Allen transitioned into the company's professional photography division. From there, he's been one of the company's best utility players. "I've been in the advertising and branding side, on the marketing side, worked in professional, consumer and digital," he says. "I've worn a lot of hats in 23 years, but these past 18 months have been among the most satisfying during my tenure."
But staying with the same company 23 years in an age like this is a rarity. Why did Allen stick with Kodak so long? "First, the brand has such unique equities, it's hard to find another that can compete," he says. "The consumers have an emotional connection to Kodak, which has been bringing their images to life for more than 100 years. The other thing is, the different markets the company serves afford you the opportunity to move and take on new challenges while still staying within the same corporate structure."