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Direct Response Marketing

Response Magazine's 13th Annual State of the Industry Report

1 Sep, 2008 By: Thomas Haire Response

As we close in on 2008 presidential election, the direct response television (DRTV) market is again facing another test of its mettle. For decades, proponents of DRTV have contended that direct response was the one and only recession-proof avenue for marketers of all shapes and sizes. As DRTV has led the direct response marketing space deep into the corporate marketing world, its influence has expanded exponentially. In 2008, however DRTV has been tested by major media events — including the extremely successful Beijing Olympics and the presidential election cycle — while, at the same time, watching the American economy continue to struggle. Now, as 2009 appears in the not-too-distant future, new challenges — the digital broadcasting changeover set for February, a weakening dollar, mobile marketing's advance — appear to be conspiring to, once again, test direct response's staying power.


For the past 12 years, Response has asked members of its Editorial Advisory Board to analyze current trends and make predictions about the future of the direct response space. Once again in 2008, their thoughts represent a cross section of the industry: from DRTV legends to technology experts; from the international perspective to that of the cable networks. According to these leaders, this is the state of our industry.

What was the most significant accomplishment in the past year for the DR industry?

Stan Bruckheim, Latino Media Services: In Latin America, there has been a significant growth in sales generated from the use of previously peripheral means of distribution, including retail, print, catalog, Internet and even some radio.

Brian Fays, MTV Networks: Overall, the economy was a tremendous challenge for all DR in 2008. Inventory is always the name of the game, and all cable networks have done a better job recognizing where the inventory is and placing it in the client's hands at the best price to maintain an efficient ROI.

Doug Garnett, Atomic Direct: This one is really tough. After all, it was a year when the infomercial airwaves were filled with "get-rich-quick" schemes and programs for buying repossessed homes. Perhaps the most significant thing to learn from the past year is that the traditional industry is still all-to-alive — with its focus on taking consumer money while giving little (or nothing) in return. Perhaps it's the year when things didn't happen. Mobile marketing didn't take over the world. And we're beginning to realize the limits of the Internet for advertising purposes.

Tim Hawthorne, Hawthorne Direct: DR is strong and a haven in a rough economy. Despite all signs pointing to recession, DR expenses continue to grow. In fact, more traditional image advertisers are using accountable DRTV now than ever. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) reported in late 2007 that direct marketing ad expenditures topped 50 percent of all ad dollars spent for the first time.

Toni Knight, WorldLink: Despite the soft market, our industry's greatest accomplishment has been its ability to weather the current economic storm. Similar to every marketing area, DR certainly has been impacted by market conditions. However, thanks to the growth of new media's role in reaching consumers, it was able to hold up well. New technology's seamless fit with the DR model has made what could've been a horrible year into a respectable year.

Fern Lee, DRTV consultant: The two biggest stories are mobile marketing taking steps forward and online marketing taking a bigger piece of the pie from DRTV.

Mike Medico, E&M Advertising: The continued growth of online as it applies to direct response is a major move forward.

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