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Direct Response Marketing

Navigating the Summer Holidays

15 Apr, 2009 By: Eddie Wilders Response This Week

Even though the thermostats in the Northeast don’t agree, the calendar says we are a little over a month away from the unofficial beginning of the summer. In just a few short weeks, we will be laying on the beach, soaking up the sun, attending backyard BBQs, playing bocce, loading the family in the RV for a cross-country voyage, and anxiously counting the minutes for school to start up again.

But for those in the direct response industry, the summer is only the beginning of lower viewership levels and declining response rates. Finding the customer becomes a challenge as the weather gets warmer. The trick is to know where to look.

The summer season is often broken up by the big three holidays: Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Each holiday presents its own unique viewership and response trends that advertisers need to maneuver around in order to keep profits and response positive.

Memorial Day weekend unofficially kicks off the summer as many beaches open their sands to thousands of patrons seeking a brand new tan. Memorial Day weekend also marks the beginning of the summer doldrums for the direct response world.

For starters, response during the Memorial Day weekend in 2008 declined 6 percent from the previous weekend. While this number certainly doesn’t put much fear into advertisers hearts, the notion that overall viewership increases about 10 percent should. This all means that more consumers are watching their televisions, but are not inclined to order anything. Stations that showed the biggest decline in viewership were stations such as Hallmark, Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network. On the upside, Food Network and Discovery Channel contributed to a 30-percent increase in viewership in information programming.

July 4 marks the summer’s first actual holiday. The day is filled with enormous cookouts and incredible fireworks. The day is also filled with response rates that are similar to the six days leading into and out of the holiday. Response increased 6 percent on July 4, 2008, compared to June 28 (with another 8-percent increase on July 10). This contradicts the findings of 2006 and 2007, where July 4 showed 21- and 16-percent decreases in response, respectively.

In 2008, viewership numbers trended consistently with the notion that people are outside rather than watching TV. Overall viewership numbers decreased a total of 10 percent, as stations such as E!, Comedy Central and GSN lost more than 20 percent of their viewers. In fact, total viewers have decreased for four straight years on July 4, adding to the theory that more and more people are turning off the television in favor of being outside enjoying the warm summer weather.

The final summer holiday is Labor Day. Usually the first weekend of September, this holiday represents, for many, a last opportunity to bask in the warm sunlight and have a big end-of-the-summer blowout. Labor Day itself shows the lowest response of the entire weekend, a trend that presented itself from 2005 through 2007. Labor Day Monday 2008 showed higher than normal response, but Friday, Saturday and Sunday showed very little deviation from the previous weekend or the following weekend.

Viewership is higher on Labor Day than Memorial Day or July 4, and also shows different results. A viewer increase of between 5 and 10 percent indicates that fewer people are out and about. This also correlates with the minimal change in response as more viewers usually translate into more orders.

Not many people associate the summer holidays as a time where advertisers push their products and usually see a return. This is definitely true for Memorial Day weekend, but July 4 and Labor Day do show some signs that placing advertising dollars in a smart and efficient way can make the heat and humidity of the summer a little easier to deal with.

Eddie Wilders is a media analyst at Lockard & Wechsler Direct in Irvington, N.Y. He can be reached at

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