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Direct Response Marketing

Long-Form Bounces Back

11 Jul, 2010 By: Bridget McCrea Response

Infomercials gain in popularity as advertisers fill the void left by companies that exited the space in 2009.

If 2009 was the year that advertisers pulled back and hid their heads in the sand, hoping that the recession would pass over quickly, then 2010 is the year that many of those companies will discover long-form DRTV as a viable and affordable adjunct to their traditional advertising.

“Long-form is one of the great opportunities this year,” says Doug Garnett, president of Atomic Direct in Portland, Ore., and a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board. “During the recession, people stopped putting out the bigger investments required to create long-form, leaving an opportunity right now for people to jump in with new long-form.”

Rewind 12 months and the infomercial space was decidedly different. A sagging economy resulted in very few new long-form shows, and more budget-conscious marketers going into short-form DRTV. “Everyone basically went dashing off to short-form during the recession,” Garnett explains. “That left the long-form space fairly empty, and opened up opportunity for marketers to buy up the time and come out with new long-form shows.”

Tim O’Brien, vice president of business development at Seattle-based Cesari Direct, calls the recession a “double-edged sword” for the infomercial industry. Early-stage businesses and inventors have seen their funding sources dry up and credit lines frozen, he says, which means they have less money to roll out new shows. On the other hand, large brand advertisers are no longer carving off $20-$30 million for new product and service launches, and are instead being drawn to DRTV’s accountability and measurability.

“While one type of marketer is clearly shifting away and lessening its use of long-form,” says O’Brien, “another is more attracted to the DRTV model than ever.” Rick Cesari, company president, concurs. Reflecting on his last 15 years as a producer, Cesari says he’s never seen so much interest in both short- and long-form DRTV from Fortune 500 firms. “We’re fielding calls from these types of companies on a weekly basis.”

Drawing those brand advertisers to DRTV is a combination of budgetary concerns and a need for more accountable advertising methods. Add in the fact that many of these firms have finally broken into the direct-to-consumer model via the Internet, says Cesari, and infomercials become even more compelling for brand advertisers. “They realize the benefit of DTC (direct-to-consumer),” says Cesari, “and are figuring that if they can do it successfully online, they can do it on TV as well.”

Collette Liantonio, president of Boonton, N.J.-based Concepts TV Productions, is also seeing more interest from brand advertisers, many of whom “suffered when mainstream advertising took a hit” during the recession. She doesn’t see the trend waning, thanks to the “responsible return” offered by DRTV versus image-branded advertising.

“Brands are looking at an affordable intelligent return on investment and infomercials can produce an ROI that any brand company would appreciate,” Liantonio says. “Once they discover infomercials, there is no going back.”

Barriers to Entry

Getting marketers to consider long-form is one thing, but getting them off the fence and into (or back into) the game is something else entirely. Perception is a major obstacle, namely because many of these firms still assume infomercials will produce the same results they did 20 years ago. Back then, it was enough to put a 28.5-minute show on the air and sit back while the orders came in via telephone. “In 1990, you could release a long-form show and know that your TV sales would pay for everything,” Garnett says. “The rest of it was gravy.”

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