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Direct Response Marketing

Into Thin Air

5 Feb, 2010 By: Doug McPherson Response


It didn’t seem smart. In fact, some might call it a complete waste of good ad money — especially these days.

Spending cash to promote a fitness DVD on the radio. What? Radio? Fitness screams TV. You can’t get a lot more visual than fitness — the before-and-after; the look of fitter, happier people; the bulges; the washboard abs; the healthy glow. And what about the lean figures after pounds disappeared to, well, wherever pounds go when they’re shed. Extra pounds heaven?

But that’s precisely what Beachbody, the fitness brand based in Santa Monica, Calif., did — it turned its dial to radio — even after success on TV for years without radio. Nevertheless, it began tinkering with the idea and decided to buy it and try it. The result? Music to their ears.

“Honestly, our experience with radio as a DR medium was limited,” says Jason Barnes, media director at Product Partners, Beachbody’s parent company. The product: P90X, a home exercise system that aims for total body improvement in 90 days.

And Barnes admits, even with a 30-minute TV spot it can be tough to get a potent message across. “The appeal of our products and the hook that’s going to pull in customers is very visual,” he says. “Giving motivation to get healthier and fitter through lifestyle changes, and not with contraptions or gimmicks, isn’t easy — even when you have that much TV time.”

Converting those visuals into one-minute spots of radio air would be like cramming a basketball into a shot glass. “All we really had to work with was the listener’s ear — it was going to be a challenge,” Barnes says.

The trick, he says, was to take the best parts of the P90X product — and what the company knew worked on TV — to create a pitch so listeners could visualize from the spot enough to make them call or visit the Web site to learn more or place an order. 

A Radio Campaign Dissected
Beachbody approached Buck Robinson and his radio-only ad agency, Robinson Radio, in Glen Allen, Va., to develop the campaign.

He suggested “a radio-Internet hybrid approach” that let different media outlets complement each other and, at the same time, create a compelling reason for audience response.

To do that, they unleashed what Robinson calls “radio’s secret weapon” — on-air personalities who actually used the product, documented their own successes and described their progress weekly on the air. What’s more, the DJs posted their photos online and created chat boards for listeners to share success stories.

Robinson confesses that during the first few weeks the cost-per-order was “nowhere near where it needed it to be … [and] most clients would have cut-and-run.” But after some tweaks, the numbers rose and Beachbody expanded nationally in January.

“Having the DJs use P90X was key,” Barnes says. “It created a bond between the product and the listener. Hearing your favorite DJ talk about talk about how good they feel leaves a lasting impression on listeners.”

Beachbody learned early that having a Web platform to support the radio ads was essential. “In hindsight it made sense that listeners hearing an ad in their cars or via a Web stream at work weren’t going to drop everything or pull over to call an 800 number … but they will absorb a Web address or remember to check out the host or station’s Web site later,” he adds.

Barnes says he was particularly pleased with how easy and inexpensive it was to make changes for radio.

“With TV, decisions have to be carefully planned before new shoots or making creative changes and sending countless new dubs to stations,” he says. “Even the simplest changes in TV can cost thousands. Changes for radio still required analysis and forethought, but we could make changes quickly with little additional cost.”

Barnes’ advice: have a plan that allows for changes on the fly, whether it’s an offer, price point, the voice talent or the message itself. And be patient. It may take a few weeks before expectations are met. Eventually, you’ll be able to find a combination of things that work.

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