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Direct Response Marketing

Editor’s Note: Turning the Talking Heads Around on Direct Response

10 Jul, 2010 By: Thomas Haire Response

Thomas Haire, Editor-in-ChiefDuring the course of a week in mid-June, I was lucky enough to appear as a guest on a series of news/talk radio programs in various markets across America — from Albuquerque, N.M., to Winston-Salem, N.C. — to discuss the direct response marketing world and its continued growth and success. Each interview had its own quirks, but one feeling remained prevalent: the absolute bafflement of the host and his or her listeners at just how our business really works.

Though we in the business grasp just how the direct response marketing universe has grown to include everyone from the inventor in the garage next door to the CMO of Procter & Gamble — and that the key to that growth lies in the ROI measurement capabilities of the method — general consumers tend to see DRTV ads in much the same light as they did 20 years ago: kitschy, amusing, entertaining and likely more compelling than they are willing to admit.

However, when I told hosts that 15 million Snuggies were sold in the product’s first 12 months on the market — most of them in major retail outlets — or that a company like Unilever was relying on DRTV to promote the new Dove Men+Care line (Response, April), the amusement often turned to amazement. The general reaction was akin to that of a 3-year-old upon arriving at his or her own surprise birthday party. These folks had no idea that our business is so heavily invested in retail now, or that such traditional marketers are using the same type of marketing.

These radio hosts, whom I truly believe represent the views of their listeners about DR marketing, had clearly acquired a jaded view of our business over the years. Yet, once I began to explain why so many marketers now are relying on tenets first created by the original infomercial marketers (from immediate buyer feedback to maximized ROI), the hosts began to grasp that this is no fly-by-night business — as one jokingly called it early in an interview. Once it became apparent that the marketer of the Ped Egg and the marketing team at Taco Bell were actually of the same ilk, the tenor had changed.

By the time I completed each interview, each host had turned around and actually spoken about a DRTV product that they or someone in their family had purchased. One even talked about the Hyundai Genesis that her sister had bought — after a discussion of the campaign that launched the product (which included DRTV, mobile and Web aspects).

Certainly, one man doing a few radio interviews isn’t going to change the ingrained image of the direct response business among the general media or the American public. However, with leading marketers like AJ Khubani, Tony Little and others making regular appearances on national TV programs to talk about the business, direct response marketers have definitely been fighting the good fight to boost the industry’s image. Based on my experience last month, it’s still a necessary battle to pursue.

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