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Direct Response Marketing

Brands Flock to Short-Form

1 Apr, 2008 By: Bridget McCrea Response

The short-form production market widens its lead on long-form DRTV as more traditional branders continue to test — and succeed — in direct response.

O'Leary says his company is also producing more high-end "graphics-only" spots, namely to save on costs and the need for talent. "Many of our major brand clients have to shoot union talent," he says, "and the cost is so high for talent residuals that we have to come up with options."

Clients are also investing in multiple spots at the onset to test against each other. For Vonage, for example, Respond2 produced three completely different campaigns, and then tested them against each other. "Luckily all three performed well," says O'Leary, "but in the past I would commonly see one campaign do much better and roll out as the control."

When working with brands (versus traditional DRTV marketers), DR agency leaders agree that producers must go the extra mile to provide quality while adhering to brand guidelines, all the while retaining the compelling nature of a DRTV spot.

Going Online

Thanks to the growing interest in sites like YouTube, short-form DRTV producers have found yet another compatible medium to integrate into the marketing mix, and at a fairly low cost. "[Online] video is huge right now," says Ian French, president and director of strategy for Northern Lights Direct Response in Toronto. "It's the killer app."

More producers are creating Web sites with embedded videos and also developing E-mail messages that include rich media components. Technological advancements in the online world deserve the credit for helping to spur interest in such applications, and marketers are extremely interested in getting onboard.

"We've used online video very effectively for clients, and they're excited about it," says French. "It's not always easy to get into, but I've never had a client do it, and then decide that he or she didn't want to continue with it. It just has to be used judiciously."

Liberty Medical of Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Response, February), is a big believer in online video as an adjunct to the short-form DRTV that it's been using for the past 10 years. According to Ronald Pruett, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, the firm's new Web site, which went live in February, is built around a video platform. "Going forward," says Pruett, "we expect to continue evaluating all types of video opportunities, and all channels."

It's all in the name of building a brand through sales, says Pruett, whose firm is a leading provider of medical products and services. "The beauty of DRTV is that it's pure, and you get quick response," he says. "Our belief is that over time our brand — which is now the leading brand in diabetes control — can be built through DRTV."

Also a big proponent of the use of short-form DRTV to build a brand, Robinson says companies considering a similar approach should first define their "angle" and offering, and then jump into the production pool. "Depending on the show's length, be very clear of what you want, and what you want to communicate, to viewers," says Robinson, "because at the end of the day, there's still not a lot of time to get that point across."

Producers also say marketers must understand the numbers involved in a short-form campaign from the get-go, and should avoid embarking on a campaign without a full understanding of how it all comes together, including the creative, production, backend services, Web, media and reporting. "Use resources that manage the entire campaign and that can judge its effectiveness in all channels," says O'Leary.

Most agree that it often pays to work with an agency that specializes in DRTV, as well, rather than a general agency that does DRTV as a side job. In fact, one producer says that the decision to choose a brand agency to create a DR campaign "inevitably results in disaster." Working with people who understand what the DR medium is all about on TV, and how it relates to the rest of the campaign is crucial to any short-form campaign's success.

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