When do you know a market is struggling? When a quarter that shows a 28.3-percent loss — like 4Q 2009 — can be considered a slight rebound from the previous two quarters. Kantar Media (formerly TNS Media Intelligence) reports direct response radio media billings of just more than $12 million for that fourth quarter, well off the more than $16.7 million reported in 4Q 2008.
However, with the second and third quarters of 2009 each falling below the $10M mark in radio billings — and with 3Q results being 37 percent off last year — these 4Q numbers are clearly not the year’s worst. Still, based on the six years of Kantar-provided data to Response, each of the four quarterly results in 2009 represents record lows for their respective quarters.
Compared to 4Q 2004 results, 4Q 2009 DR radio totals are off by 50 percent. However, the number of measured campaigns did show a slight uptick, with the total of 72 measuring five more than in 4Q 2008. The total measured media spend on DR radio for 2009 ended the year at $41.2 million — 23 percent behind 2008’s total of $53.7 million.
In a slight improvement over both 4Q 2008 and 3Q 2009, seven of the 17 vertical categories reported advances in 4Q 2009. For the second consecutive quarter in 2009, the “General” category was the leading dollar gainer, with a 20-percent increase of $287,400. The “Publishers and Book Clubs” category was right behind, with a $279,100 increase, which represented more than a six-fold rise from 4Q 2008. The “Food and Beverage” category was the other notable gainer, earning an extra $217,600 compared to 4Q 2008, a 63.3-percent rise.
The three biggest dollar-on-dollar losing categories also ranked in the top five of percentage losers. Like 3Q 2009, the “Household, Furniture and Appliances” category was the biggest dollar loser, this time dropping just more than $2 million (37.7 percent). “Audio Supplies and Equipment” lost $1.5 million, a 42.2-percent decline, while the “Computers, Software and Home Office” category’s $1.2 million decline reflected a 96.1-percent loss. Two smaller categories, “Correspondence Schools” and “Home and Building” each zeroed out after earning $11,300 and $22,100 respectively in 4Q 2008.
Network Radio Continues to Falter
Much like 3Q 2009, the network radio outlet stumbled badly, losing 40.8 percent ($5 million), and dropping nearly 13 points of market share. The other two outlets — local and national spot radio — were each up slightly, with local’s 6.4-percent ($284,000) rise good enough to earn it nearly a 13-point jump in market share. National spot radio’s additional $14,500 in spending allowed it to double its miniscule market share to 0.4 percent.
The total number of measured unique DR radio campaigns aired during the fourth quarter rebounded slightly from 4Q 2008’s then-record low, rising to 72. However, campaign spending averages continued to decrease. The average money spent on a campaign based on the total was off by 33.2 percent ($83,327). The average outside the top 10 fell 19.4 percent ($14,119).
Spending in the top 10 decreased by a whopping 33.6 percent ($4.2 million). Seven campaigns from 4Q 2008’s top 10 carried over to this year’s list. “Select Comfort” retained the No. 1 spot, but with a 42.7-percent reduction in spending. “Bose QuietComfort 2” climbed up to the No. 2 position from No. 5, despite a 3.6-percent drop in actual dollars spent.
The continent that brought us DRTV legend Anthony Sullivan, as well as singing sensation Susan Boyle, has quickly become a highly coveted market. And while there may be a few idiosyncrasies marketers must navigate, it will take a lot more than an Icelandic volcano to stop them from tapping into the lucrative revenue stream that is the European marketplace.
TV shopping revenue in Western Europe is expected to grow from €4.2 billion in 2007 to €6.4 billion in 2012, according to Screen Digest. But in order to accurately target these European customers, it’s imperative to understand their wants.
“Fitness, kitchen and household categories continue to do well. There is also a demand for do-it-yourself (DIY) products, especially during the spring and summer months,” says Michele Quinlan, Chicago-based director of sales and marketing for Global Infomercial Services.
Sheb Alahmari, manager of international sales and wholesale for Irvine, Calif.-based BJ Global Direct, agrees that fitness is a strong product category. “Typically, higher end items like Ab Circle Pro do better than a lower ticket fitness item,” Alahmari says.
However, European desires extend beyond fitness. Martin Purcell, chief operating officer of JML GmbH, contends that Europe also has a solid market for beauty products. And Sylvia Morales, vice president for Santa Monica, Calif.-based Williams Worldwide TV, agrees. “A change that has emerged within the beauty segment, though, is the growth of the topical category. Traditionally difficult because of required local approvals and clearances, this expansion is due largely to the close cooperation with product owners and their willingness to manufacture locally, as well as an increased patience and support with the registration process,” she says.
If there are any lessons that can be taken from Chevy Chase’s 1985 classic “National Lampoon’s European Vacation,” it would not only be to stay away from English roundabouts, but also that no two areas of Europe or its citizens are exactly alike. “Many advertisers thought the expansion of the European Union to 27 countries, linked with the continued growth of cable and digital channels, would open up new and profitable markets. However, some countries — such as France — remain largely protectionist, and DRTV has not made much impact,” says Digby Orsmond, CEO and creative director of London-based ARM Direct Ltd., and a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board.
“The majority of media is in the U.K., Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Holland, Spain and Italy,” Quinlan adds. “Obviously, more media equals higher sales so many suppliers tend to focus more on these markets.”
Purcell adds Scandinavia to the list and also accentuates the Dutch. “Holland is one of the most responsive markets per head of population and really punches above its weight,” he says.
Orsmond concurs. “Consumers in Holland, Ireland, Germany and the U.K. have most embraced DRTV, and their populations like using their televisions for all manner of home shopping. Interestingly, these countries also have the most call centers per head of population.”
And Morales says Central Europe is quickly catching up. “It has stepped out of Western Europe’s shadow,” she contends. “The consumer base continues to increase as its per capita income — and resulting buying power — grows.”
However, in the end, Orsmond’s experience always proves that the U.K. is still the best DRTV market in Europe. “The cost of both short- and long-form airtime is very competitive when compared to the U.S. Another added advantage in the U.K. is that TV audience levels can be accurately tracked using BARB (Broadcaster’s Audience Research Board), making planning and buying TV airtime more accurate than any other country in Europe,” he says.
Orsmond contends that the Brits’ embrace of teleshopping simply comes down to the numbers. With a population of about 59 million, the U.K. has 14 home shopping style channels compared with Germany’s approximate 84 million population having only five.
Likewise, Alahmari contends that acceptance levels for DRTV vary on the continent. He says the U.K. and Germany can certainly move volume. “Some European countries like France are very strict about importation and TV ad claims, so it’s very difficult to transition a campaign, whereas you can import and sell almost anything in a country like Holland,” Alahmari says. Which begs the question: With target markets and products categories established, how does one go about actually transitioning their campaign?
Orsmond charges that with regard to creative style, it is important for U.S. companies to understand that European consumers have very distinct tastes and that their U.S. infomercials should be made in such a way as to allow for cultural or language differences at the initial production stage.
“Europe is pretty much accustomed to U.S-style products and TV presentations, and as usual, the devil is in the detail. For example, don’t spend five minutes of your cooking show talking about meatloaf when most of Europe does not recognize it except as an aging rock star,” Purcell quips, also stressing that marketers must remember differences like measurements and calculations.
“FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval doesn’t mean a thing to most European TV stations,” Orsmond says. “To get a product approved, especially a cosmetic or pharmaceutical, it must conform to local standards, which vary from country to country. For example, cosmetics containing a fairly common ingredient, Alcohol 40, are prohibited in Scandinavia.”
Even electronics must be adapted, as the European standard is 220 volts (U.S. 110 volts). “Not only do manufacturers need to produce different product versions, they must get the product passed by local trading approval boards such as the BEAB (British Electrotechnical Approvals Board) in the U.K. and TUV in Germany,” Orsmond adds.
When federal regulators stamped their approval on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising for pharmaceutical companies several years back, it was a no-brainer for those companies to flood traditional media with their messages.
But now drug makers are learning what other industries have discovered: Finding where consumers’ eyeballs are, and getting their fingers to dial or E-mail to buy, isn’t exactly as easy as popping a pill.
“With the recession taking a bite out of budgets, we’re seeing some of the sheen wear off from traditional DTC channels like magazines and television,” says Jeff Greene, director of strategic services and social media at HealthEd Group, a health marketing company in Clark, N.J. “And the pharma industry is realizing that health care consumers are different, and changing consumers’ health behavior is not the same thing as convincing them to try a new soft drink.”
The Internet has yielded “more empowered health care consumers, consumers who want details,” Greene says. “They want to read about a medication’s clinical trials, they want to learn about the experiences of other patients.”
But part of the problem for pharma companies is self-inflicted. They’re not communicating very well with their target audiences. “You often see patient materials that appear to be written for a medical audience — they can be overly complex with technical language and confusing graphics,” Greene says.
That might explain why many pharmaceutical companies are giving themselves a prescription of social media — a medium (and medicine?) that’s a natural for letting consumers discuss drugs in their own language and in their own way.
And it’s not just a few small outfits that are dipping their toes in YouTube, Twitter, blogs, Facebook and the rest of the social media menu — the big boys are there with bells on.
Pfizer, maker of Viagra and Celebrex, is putting up a social media site to let patients confidentially post personal health information so researchers can learn from them. Johnson & Johnson has loaded several videos onto YouTube and has its own corporate blog. AstraZeneca, which makes the asthma drug Symbicort, has a blog and Facebook page. GlaxoSmithKline launched a corporate blog called “More than Medicine” that, according to a company press release, is “expressly uninterested in promoting GSK brands” but will instead focus on “creating a dialogue about the pressing issues facing the health care industry.”
And drug giant Bayer may win the creativity award. It has unveiled a new online glucose-monitoring tool for young diabetics called Didget, which works with Nintendo gaming systems and rewards users for testing their blood sugar levels. Kids can also take part in a Bayer social-network site to create their own profiles and interact with others.
Being Social is Popular
Adding social media to their repertoires may be a healthy move for pharmas — it’s attracting users in droves.
Burst, an online advertising outfit in Burlington, Mass., surveyed more than 1,900 adults 18 years and older on social media usage for a study the company released last year. Four out of five respondents ages 18 to 34 and nearly half of baby boomers ages 45 to 64 say they belong to a social-networking site. What’s more, two out of three respondents use the Internet to gather wellness info. And a third of the respondents who seek wellness data online do so at least once a week — and more than 10 percent search daily.
Epsilon, a multi-channel marketing company in Dallas, found in a survey last year that health care conversations are happening on message boards more than on any other social media venue. Nearly half of respondents say they use message boards to discuss health issues online.
But Burst also found that even though many people belong to social-networking sites, they’re still spending more time on other pursuits while on the Internet. The 18- to-34-year-olds are reading entertainment news (48.6 percent), gaming (40.5 percent), local or national news (37.3 percent) and social media (35.5 percent). Boomers are perusing national news (55.8 percent), two out of five are shopping, and 40.2 percent are viewing health information.
However, there is good news in terms of effectiveness of branded Web sites for pharma companies. ComScore Inc., a digital marketing intelligence company in Reston, Va., found in its 2009 study that pharmaceutical companies’ online advertising and branded Web sites have a significant positive impact on awareness and favorability among patients and prospects. For prospects, exposure-only to an ad increased both aided and unaided brand awareness, with increases of 4.1 and 4.2 percentage points, respectively.
When Tom Wagner was challenged with answering the call for healthier choices at quick-service restaurant drive-thrus, the vice president of consumer insights/marketing for Taco Bell Corp. looked to a consumer survey for ideas. Of those surveyed by the Southern California-based franchiser, 69 percent said having better choices in the drive-thru would encourage them to eat better. In addition, only half of Americans believe they can stick to a low-calorie diet while ordering at the drive-thru, but 89 percent would like to try better choices of their favorite menu items if they were available.
Taco Bell, which does about 70 percent of its business via drive-thru, knew it had to answer the request and so in January 2010, the company introduced the Drive-Thru Diet, based on its Fresco Menu — seven items, all with less than nine grams of fat — which went live a year earlier.
The Fresco Menu caught on quickly after its 2009 introduction, and inspired consumers to write the company with praise and success stories. Perhaps one of the most compelling stories came from Christine Dougherty, of Pensacola, Fla., who lost 54 pounds by reducing her daily calories while eating from the Fresco Menu. It was the consumers’ reactions, combined with Dougherty’s story, that compelled the creation of the Drive-Thru Diet, the basis for Taco Bell’s first-ever long-form television commercial.
The Evolution of the Quick-Service Infomercial
Wagner was the leader behind the new Fresco menu and the Drive-Thru Diet project. A veteran of the quick-service franchise for 20 years, Wagner has served in a variety of roles from financial planning and acquisitions to market research. Now, after 15 years in the marketing department and as head of consumer insights, he is responsible for having a broad and strategically relevant understanding of consumers and the industry at large.
“It’s certainly one of the best jobs at the company,” Wagner says. “It lets me influence all major functions from operations to design to advertising and product pipeline development. Consumer insight looks into the brand and industry and the future as well. I keep track of all the economic data — information like unemployment, gas prices, etc., because they all impact our customers.”
Wagner and the marketing team have three goals in mind when it comes to consumers. First, it’s to drive awareness of products. Second, to drive a trial of the product. And finally, the third goal is to drive repeat business.
Like other quick-service restaurants, Taco Bell had been under pressure from the media and society to help solve the obesity epidemic in the U.S. So when faced with the challenge of the “better-for-you” initiative, as Taco Bell refers to it, Wagner set out driving awareness of Taco Bell’s new Fresco menu.
“I had to develop a strategy to attract people to the brand with something better for you, knowing that Taco Bell is part of the fast-food industry,” Wagner says. “This was not an easy task. So we looked toward a campaign that was not what you’d normally see.” Wagner decided on a 360-degree approach in all areas from print to social media and focusing on a strategy of people looking to better their eating habits.
The Fresco menu went up in January 2009, with the first step being the creation of the seven items with less than nine grams of fat. Taco Bell accomplished this by taking the cheese and sauces off of its favorite menu items and replacing it with salsa or pico de gallo. The idea was to still offer people their Taco Bell fix, but with less fat and calories.
The second step, after creating the menu, was to put some direct response marketing behind the launch. “Ever since we put it on the menu board, we’ve gotten people writing us letters saying they are eating off of it, and they found it’s a great way to reduce calories, lose weight and make smarter choices” Wagner says.
In fact, it was Dougherty who approached Taco Bell with her weight-loss story. She sent Taco Bell her before-and-after photos, showing how she lost 54 pounds while continuing to use the drive-thru. “Christine was proof that the diet delivered taste. We had Christine, the diet menu trademarked and the diet was relevant to consumers. We knew it would break through the clutter,” Wagner adds.
Wagner knew that putting Dougherty in a commercial on television would generate discussion, but Taco Bell wanted to play offense in the “better-for-you” space by launching the first-ever infomercial for a fast-food restaurant. The long-form commercial features Dougherty’s weight-loss transformation as well as helpful tips from the NBA’s dietitian Ruth Carey.
The call-to-action in the infomercial, as well as Taco Bell’s other Drive-Thru Diet commercials, is the opportunity to try an item from the Fresco menu. The national advertising drove consumers to the Web site, where they could download a coupon for a free Fresco taco.