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Direct Response Marketing

It's a Buyer's Market Out There

1 Oct, 2009 By: Nicole Urso Reed Response

Deals & Steals

Print ads may be the hottest deal out there right now for a low-cost supplement to large multi-channel campaigns or an affordable test environment for new products.

"I've seen rates lower now than 20 years ago," says Marianna Morello, president and CEO of New York-based Manhattan Media Services. "If somebody's smart, this is the time to test. When the economy levels out, they won't get these rates."

These bittersweet buying opportunities are the result of a debt-ridden publishing industry gasping for revenue. Low circulation, declining subscription sales and fewer ad dollars resulted in hundreds of closures. In 2008, 525 magazines went out of business, according to Crain's New York. Luxury lifestyle, housing, automobiles and travel categories suffered the greatest loss.

One dozen major metropolitan daily newspapers also went out of business including the widely publicized closure of E.W. Scripps Co.'s iconic Rocky Mountain News, a 150-year old Colorado institution that was founded in a gold-mining camp in 1859. Tribune, which owns the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008, and the New York Times continues to dig itself out of debt by cutting production costs, raising subscription rates on its print edition and discussing ways to monetize online content.

As the industry figures out a new business model and ad inventory remains unsold, Morello encourages DR advertisers to take advantage of these short-term buying opportunities.

"If the cost of the ads are low and the products aren't expensive, people buy them," says Morello. "These products are doing very well."

Smooth Away ($14.99 plus $6.99 for shipping and handling) is a hair-removal buffing pad that Morello advertised nationally as part of a larger multi-channel campaign. Andy Khubani, president and CEO of Ideavillage, was intent on pushing Smooth Away into retail and took advantage of print buying power to get his message distributed in as many ways and in as many places as possible.

"He covered every magazine out there," says Morello. "I even had him on taxi tops and in subway stations, on bus kiosks and phone booths."

On the other end of the spectrum, DR advertisers with conservative budgets can take advantage of low print rates to try multi-variant tests in a mass market. Morello suggests testing out two versions of a free standing insert to 1 or 2 million readers in Parade or the Sunday edition of the New York Times; see what works and then rollout to 32 million readers in Parade or 60 million readers in the Times. She believes it's the ideal time to understand media efficiency ratios, so that when the economy rebounds, advertisers will have an accurate barometer on how much to invest and what their return will likely be.

Free Marketing Channels

A search on YouTube for "Power 90" yields 11,800 results, with the first one being Beachbody's DRTV commercial. Most of the videos are personal accounts of people documenting their progression and physical transformations.

There are about 2,100 results for the search term "Power 90" on Facebook. Sure, some results have nothing to do with the product, like the "I miss 90s Power Rangers" fan club. But, in most cases, these were unofficial groups engaged online about their shared Power 90 experience.

The "Power 90 Challenge for Health!" group, for example, invites anyone to join, to partner up with a member of the group for moral support, to set realistic goals and to put a voluntary $100 on the line for charity if the goal is not met.

Twitter is also abuzz with hundreds of tweets about Beachbody's latest Power 90 workout, P90X. User queensandradee posted, "last cycle class today. Cancelled gym membership... will be incorporating more P90X into my workout."

User robshelley tweeted: "P90x training, harder than I thought it would be."

According to Medved, Beachbody has prospered tremendously from viral online marketing, but those elements are not part of a formal DR media plan.

"There's an organic, natural, grassroots campaign that has grown for that product has benefited from Twitter and YouTube." However, Medved explains that television is still driving the brand and the revenue. In most cases, social marketing, which may include posting DRTV commercials to YouTube, are typically handled in house by the product owners, while DR agencies focus on the standard distribution channels like TV, print and radio.

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About the Author: Nicole Urso Reed

Nicole Urso Reed

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