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Global Perspective

Canada Basks in the Branded Response Glow

1 Aug, 2009 By: Doug McPherson Response


Be a Boutique Geek

Canada may be one country, but it's got plenty of diversity. For example, Interwood sells in English, French, Cantonese and Mandarin and services consumers in each language as well. So insiders say it helps to think of the market in boutique terms.

Stacey adds there's been more exploration of multi-cultural television, such as Chinese and Portuguese TV, in Canada than there has been in the U.S. "My advice to marketers considering entry into Canada is to first meet with experts and companies in the territory," he says. "This will ensure you are making the most informed decisions about which strategy of entry is best suited to your company's objectives and capabilities."

In addition to the heavy French and growing Chinese influence north of the border, Whalen and others say that recent response rates across a number of different categories have proven that specialty channels are worth a closer look from a response perspective. "From gardening to food networks, viewers of niche and focused programming stations tend to be the ones that line the pockets of Canadian advertisers," Whalen says. "However, as a shift from previous years, this means that DRTV in Canada no longer gets the mass-audience reach as a side benefit."

Ed Crain, president at Toronto-based Kingstar Direct Inc., adds that a big challenge to the continued growth of the infomercial business in Canada is Canadian content regulations limiting the amount of half-hour time available. "Canada continues to be a somewhat boutique market with much of the productive half-hour and two-minute time tied up in contracts by established marketers and DR agencies," he says. "A U.S. marketer needs to partner with a strong Canadian DR agency to gain access to this time to effectively access the market."

Crain says there are intricacies in the French market that can provide 30 to 50 percent of overall sales that need to be properly exploited. These intricacies, in combination with fluctuating regional response, seasonal variances and the need for timely response data, make that kind of partnership "essential."

Americans have two alternatives according to Woodrooffe: try to do it themselves or appoint a Canadian distributor. "Being in a foreign market isn't necessarily easy. Local knowledge can be and is key and that's what a distributor offers," he contends.

The Bad Economy's Good Side

Crain says that, just as in the United States, the recession has led to lower media rates with more time in better time periods on networks that hadn't been available in the past.

"We've experienced tremendous growth in short form with some of the strongest performers that we have ever seen," says Crain. "We've committed to and locked up more media time across the board and are quickly expanding into purely Canadian Web opportunities on behalf of our clients."

Kingstar reports it's also seeing a constant stream of new products, groundbreaking creative and even stronger offers. "All of this leads us to believe that the Canadian market is healthy indeed for U.S.-based DR products," Crain says.

And Stacey says Northern Response continues to grow and exceed targets. "In the past year, we distributed more products than ever, including the top-selling long-form show, P90X, and the top-selling short-form spot, ShamWow," he says. "I also think this recession caused HUT [households utilizing television] levels to rise substantially, which also increased our media sales and driven retail sales."

But if a sour economy has opened the eyes of traditional mass advertisers and perhaps increased business for some in DR, it has also put new pressure on DR marketers to deliver more powerful creative.

"Creative can't just be award winning — it must move product off of shelves, drive cars off of lots and increase cross-sells and upsells," Whalen says. "Marketers need to know what works and what doesn't so they can test, learn and apply for future campaigns."

Both Crain and Whalen say producers are getting inventive with new visual performance techniques that keep viewers captivated and deliver offers that demonstrate value and unique buying opportunities.

Another front gaining steam is the Canadian government's investments in Canada's digital technology. Specifically, Crain says the government is working with RIM, the Ontario-based company that markets the Blackberry, to explore and provide funding for new digital technologies that can drive new businesses and revenue streams. "Direct marketers who have seen their digital or Web-based orders increasing will need to pay special attention to cell phone and personal digital assistant markets for new opportunities to sell products and services," he contends.

Crain believes the future will continue to bring a concentration on multiple sales channels — all driven by intelligently managed TV. "The biggest challenge will be continuing to develop monitoring and measurement techniques on ever increasing Web sales to determine the origin of each sale," he says. "As TV results fragment, it becomes even more important to track every potential sale or qualified lead that TV initiates. Marketers that can do this — and do it well — will effectively build market share in Canada."

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