Media Zone: Channeling Miss Cleo15 Jan, 2010 By: Timothy R. Hawthorne Response
I never was a fan of Miss Cleo and the Psychic Readers Network. I found it improbable you could gather hundreds of authentic psychics to man the phones at 2 a.m. every night.
Nevertheless, in 1996, as I was finishing my book, The Complete Guide to Infomercial Marketing, I channeled a bit of Miss Cleo, and boldly titled the final chapter “The Future of Infomercials,” wherein I prophesized advertising’s future … in 2010. Who knew, 14 years later, I’d still be DRTV-bound and called to account in this new decade-opening edition of Response Magazine. How’d I fare? Certainly better than an NFL pregame crew, but probably worse than Albus Dumbledore.
My Crystal Ball Was Crystal Clear …
Prediction: Infomercial media time will increase, as will costs. This was a slam-dunk. For proof, scan your electronic program guide (EPG) on any night or weekend day; cable net and digital sub-channel proliferation has spawned legions of infomercial time periods. But those wondrous $50 half-hours of yore are gone.
Prediction: Electronic marketing sales will probably grow from $5 billion to more than $20 billion in the next 10 years alone. The Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) claims it has grown to more than $400 billion — but, hey, I’ve never agreed with its calculation. I think I hit this one on the nose: $20 billion is about right for the one-step-offer DRTV business, including Internet and retail sales, and live TV home shopping.
Prediction: Consumer control of advertising impressions will be the hallmark of interactive television. Ad aversion is a plague online and off. In the TV world, DVRs and skip buttons accommodate commercial-aversive behaviors even better than channel-hopping TV remotes and fast-forwarding VCRs ever did. To reel viewers back in, I predicted three responses:
- Reward viewers’ attention. We regularly see limited-time offers. Online, product coupons and discounts will become even more plentiful.
- Target consumers individually. Online advertising’s biggest differentiator — dynamic targeting — is also the driving force behind Big Cable’s Canoe project. The paddling’s been slow, but the oars are in the water. Some companies are already delivering ads to specific zip codes.
- Trade on interactivity. Exchanging free content for ad views and filling out surveys is ubiquitous online. But cable, satellite and the telcos have yet to get into this business in a big way.
Prediction: Half of the major infomercial direct marketers will go out of business, be acquired, or be forced to adapt. I might have been a tad aggressive on this one; sure National Media, ITV, GoodTimes, Don LaPre and Carleton Sheets, among others, are long gone from the airwaves. But Guthy-Renker, TELEBrands, Ronco, Tristar, Time-Life, Ontel, Fitness Quest, Ideavillage and a small elite group still survive, joined by robust new companies like Beachbody, Euro Pro, Allstar and others. But “forced to adapt” — bull’s-eye!
Not Wrong, Just Ahead Of My Time …
Prediction: The days of intrusive advertising and the short-form commercial may soon be numbered. Thirty-second spots still remain in heavy rotation, but information-rich two-minute DR spots now dominate many cable networks, branded entertainment/product placement is growing dramatically, and five-to-15 second pre-rolls are becoming standard on the Net.
Prediction: Advertisers will turn to chapter formats to deliver product information. Click here, click online, videos play, sales incline. While not yet a TV staple, satellite and cable providers have rolled out first-generation interactive “chapter” campaigns for visionaries like Nike.
If Being A Seer Were Easy, I’d Have Invented The Snuggie …
Prediction: We will see growing numbers of multi-product infomercials. Maybe I imagined more major advertisers would be using long-form advertising for branding, for which multi-product formatting can be very effective.
Prediction: In 2010, infomercials will be the preferred advertising mode. In a time when online advertising is all about analytics, it’s shocking that marketing directors don’t regularly execute TV campaigns capable of delivering the same accountability.