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Direct Response Marketing

Guest Opinion

1 Apr, 2004 By: Dick Wechsler Response

DRTV Seeks Out New Tools for Full Life-Cycle Marketing

The bar is getting higher for direct response television marketers. The traditional measures of cost-per-lead, cost-per-order and cost-per-call are no longer enough to support a product as it vaults from DRTV into retail and other sales channels that, combined, deliver far richer revenue sources than television alone can provide.

The DRTV marketer and the agencies that serve them need to develop the expertise and toolset to support a product throughout its entire life cycle. In the not too distant past, a product's life cycle was limited to two main phases. The first was television advertising. The mantra was to run the campaign as aggressively and profitably as possible. Then, in phase two, the product would be pushed through retail, riding on the coattails of the TV exposure.

If all went well, inventory would be exhausted, the campaign would end, and the product would be thrown on the scrap heap of consumer sensations - such as pasta pots, pancake makers, dusters and mops - never to be seen again. The irony is that, in each case, millions of dollars in advertising exposure and brand building were left to waste.

In today's environment, the cost of entry has grown too high to allow that investment in advertising and branding to go unutilized. Andy Khubani, president of Ideavillage, points out that Guthy-Renker has enjoyed considerable success with a hybrid union of direct response and branding. "They've done a wonderful job using infomercials to introduce new products and then to establish and sustain the brand," Khubani says.

In turn, Khubani's Ideavillage has done the same thing using short form to introduce and extend its line of micro-hair trimmers for men and women. "It's important to understand that the secret to success throughout the full product cycle rests in the disciplines of DRTV," Khubani says. "But success also demands an expertise and an advanced toolset to fully analyze and understand the results of the DRTV campaign to make smart marketing decisions related to branding, retail support and line extensions."

That means the days of blindly running $30,000 to $50,000 in media per week to support the push no longer cuts it. For example, by tracking advertising expenditures as weekly gross rating points (GRPs) against retail sales for the same period, marketers can gain an accurate and reliable understanding of just how much exposure against a particular target audience is required to build brand and drive retail.

Direct marketers can achieve this depth of understanding and insight by merging traditional DRTV spending and order data with audience measurement data like that provided by Nielsen. Now campaigns can be analyzed in terms of responsiveness. DR marketers can see which times of day and days of the week are most responsive in clear, empirical measures. And, they can also identify which program types are most responsive for a particular campaign.

Armed with the expertise and toolset to do this type of analysis, marketers will no longer need to run $30,000 to 50,000 of media each week to push overstocked inventory through retail. Marketers will know exactly how much exposure is necessary to build brand and support retail throughout a product's entire life cycle. Better yet, they'll be able to plan the campaigns to be comprised of the most responsive media mix possible for a particular product.

In the end, quality DRTV products will no longer be a "here-today, gone-tomorrow" phenomena. And, the winners in the era of full life-cycle marketing will be marketers and agencies with the skills and tools to mine and to act on this information.

Dick Wechsler is president and CEO of an Irvington, N.Y.-based direct response agency. He can be reached at (914) 591-6600.

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