A Deep Breath of Summer Prepares Us for the Final Push in 20091 Aug, 2009 By: Thomas Haire Response
There's nothing like a little summer break to refresh and reinvigorate a person. I imagine it's a body clock that is set in childhood, when you got that much treasured two-and-a-half months of summer vacation from the seeming drudgery of school.
Today, as professionals, we're all lucky if we can get away for just a few days at a time. Heck, with the economy still sputtering along, many may consider themselves fortunate to still have a position that comes with paid time off!
Last month, I was fortunate enough to have a few days of leisure and fun — while still networking and doing business — with industry colleagues on the northern Mississippi River, as it rolls between Wisconsin and Minnesota. It was a time to mentally recuperate from what was a tense and action-packed first six months of the year. But it was also a time to hear from those in the business about what to expect in the second half of 2009.
Now, as the dog days of August bear down upon us, it's amazing to consider that the fall and the fourth quarter will be here sooner than we can imagine. For the direct response industry, the second half of 2009 seems to be stacking up as quite a roller-coaster ride. While media results from the first-quarter that have been trickling into Response have been generally stable (long-form slightly up, short-form manageably down), the effects of the slow-developing upfront market are still to be determined.
A strong second-quarter showing from DR media billings could set the stage for interesting third and fourth quarters. Could the relative abundance of available media time left on the table by general advertisers help the direct response market rebound from its relatively troubled results in the second half of 2008? Or will the opposite occur, as those general advertisers actually gain power and force lower rates, chewing up even more ad time than normal and leaving just scraps for DRTV marketers?
Another topic to keep an eye on as we head into the fall is the battle over testimonial regulation being waged in Washington. As Congressional committees and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are looking to crack down on what they consider "over-the-top" testimonials used extensively in direct response marketing, key industry players like Guthy-Renker Corp.'s Greg Renker and Product Partners' Jon Congdon are taking the fight to them. With the backing of the Electronic Retailing Association's (ERA) strong government affairs division, theses voices behind such huge hit products as Proactiv Solution and P90X stood before Washington legislators in late July, firing the industry's first salvo in what looks to be a battle that will continue throughout late 2009.
So, while the gettin's still good, take a deep breath and find some time to enjoy a few lazy days this summer. However, once you're rested and ready, be prepared for a wild ride during the rest of 2009!
Thomas Haire, Editor-in-Chief