DRMA Spotlight: Direct Branding for the Future1 Jan, 2016 By: Thomas Haire Response
Sean K. Fay sees Envision Response Group redefining the performance-based agency model with a combination of TV and digital expertise.
DRMA member company Envision Response Group provides performance-based marketing solutions — from strategy and creative to media rollout — to product and brand marketers. The company refers to its style of marketing as “direct branding,” combining effective direct response television strategies with powerful online video and digital marketing strategies to create effective, top-performing campaigns.
Recently, Response caught up with the Seattle-based company’s founder and CEO, Sean K. Fay, for this DRMA Spotlight Q&A.
Q: What is your professional background and how did you come to lead Envision Response?
Sean K. Fay: I was invited by a close friend to participate in a juicing seminar in Seattle to educate people about the benefits of freshly made juice. I loved it. I demonstrated the machine while Jay Kordich, the “Juiceman,” lectured about the health benefits of fresh juice.
I was hired as a seminar sales leader and traveled to cities across America selling juicers and learning how to pitch. The owner of the company behind the Juiceman was Rick Cesari — my first mentor. He taught me about direct response marketing and how to make a successful infomercial. We later became business partners with Cesari Response Television. We launched the George Foreman Grill, Sonicare, and Oxiclean. We wanted to build brands with DRTV, and we were very successful. Our company was ranked the fastest growing company in Washington in 1997.
Q: How and why did you form Envision Response?
Fay: In 2003, I set out on my own to start Envision Response with a focus on doing elevated creative long-form and short-form production for companies that wanted to build their brands across all channels with a profitable DRTV campaign. Our signature client was New West Products, makers of Space Bag storage packs. The company later sold to ITW, and then to SC Johnson in 2013. We worked with them continuously for 12 years, producing our last spot as a Ziploc-branded spot in early 2014. They are a great example of the kind of branded DR that we excel in. Our expertise has been in long- and short-form — with great production value and tons of value-added marketing support.
Q: What does Envision Response do for performance-based marketers that sets it apart from other companies in this space?
Fay: We are always looking for ways to add value to our clients’ campaigns. Today, we are pushing the envelope and beginning to explore new channels, such as YouTube spots that push to a landing page where a transaction event can occur. We are seeing upwards of 10 percent of the TV media budget shift to these online strategies. The reason: they work! It’s an exciting time to be a performance-based marketer.
Q: Who are some of Envision Response’s key clients?
Fay: Some of our key clients include: Groupe SEB (T-fal); American Automobile Association (AAA); American Heart Association; Premera Blue Cross; Teeter Hang-Ups; the Wunderman Agency; and DMW Direct.
Q: What have your most recent campaign successes been?
Fay: Our most recent campaigns are our new Premera Blue Cross spot for DMW Direct — this is a regional DRTV campaign with a local Northwest flavor — designed to increase sign ups for Medicare Advantage plans. We worked with the agency to execute a strong creative and the results back that up.
Our new OptiGrill+ campaign features some great social proofs, as the product was featured as one of “Oprah’s Favorite Items.” We were able to negotiate the inclusion of this in the spot and we’re seeing lower cost-per-order (CPO), giving new strength to a successful two-year old campaign.
We recently completed work for a series of AAA Autoclub updates, which feature regional localizations promoting the AAA Roadside Service card. This campaign has had numerous updates in its four-year life. It is a workhorse and continues to perform — especially with a strong testing strategy and updated creative elements.
Q: What are the biggest accomplishments or changes for Envision Response in the past year?
Fay: First, we’ve embraced the online video space completely and definitely plan to make a name for ourselves in this space. I believe strongly that, in the future, there will be a “video” budget — some of it will be on TV.
The second change is that we moved into new, larger offices and our team is growing. We are building the Envision brand like we build our clients’ brands — what you stand for and what you believe in must be communicated in every e-mail, every decision, every effort, and how you show up to your ultimate customer. We want to be known for creativity, dedication to our clients’ success, a fun hardworking team, and a modern, technology-driven workplace.
Q: What are two of the hottest topics facing marketers in the performance-based space?
Fay: The hottest topic is how to better understand the online space — especially video. Certain demographics are watching content online — how do we reach them with our message, in what way, and with what kind of call-to-action?
The second hottest topic is: can we survive in this new, technology-driven environment? A lot of the old guard DR marketers are not sure that this new model makes sense to them, based on the old way of buying the most eyeballs for the least amount of money and putting up an offer that people instantly buy. The new demographic doesn’t treat the online space they way we did in the early days of DRTV. They have more access to taking an action but require a different approach online.
This is why you see so many “three-day sale” programs working online — like Zulily. They were just bought by QVC. This short timeframe sales model provides a reason to act. Maybe there’s something to that?
Q: What are your plans for the next three-to-five years for Envision Response?
Fay: We’re going to grow the agency organically, focusing on our core of creative, production, and adding value to campaigns. But we are also looking to expand digital, media buying online, and campaign management. Growth through acquisition or merger is a possibility. I’m aiming to define the direct response agency of the future — we’re going to go for it! ■