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Take the Long View

1 Jul, 2008 By: Bridget McCrea Response

Long-form producers get creative in their efforts to advance the format while battling high media costs.

Earlier this year Doug Garnett made a bold move. Knowing full well that multiple products haven't historically sold well via a single long-form DRTV ad, the president of Portland-based Atomic Direct (and a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board) used the firm's highly successful Drill Doctor infomercial as the foundation for a three-product infomercial. Since consumers rarely just buy or need a single tool, the DRTV production company combined the drill with a general-purpose grinder-sharpener and a hex wrench to complete the triad.

The gamble paid off, according to Garnett. "We put all three in the same half-hour show to make it more efficient, with the end result being two 13-minute segments and one 2-minute segment for the same client," he explains. "It worked out better than the original show." Garnett says combining the three resulted in media cost savings that no single-product show can match.

"In the past we've tested some two-product shows and found that our sales don't go down if we lose five minutes in the half-hour," says Garnett. "What that tells us is that in a half-hour show, you may not need every one of those 28 minutes. So if we can use those five minutes for something else — such as an additional product — then we're definitely increasing efficiencies."

The long-form ad for the 2007 Chevy Silverado truck, featuring host Howie Long and GM executive Gary White, broke new ground in DRTV for automakers.
The long-form ad for the 2007 Chevy Silverado truck, featuring host Howie Long and GM executive Gary White, broke new ground in DRTV for automakers.

Brands Trending Into Long Form

As Garnett already pointed out, a number of factors are impacting the long-form space right now, not the least of which is the escalating rates for half-hour avails. Whereas in the past marketers were able to snap up remnant time at decent prices, today's companies are hard-pressed to find decent deals for long-form shows. Credit brand advertisers with creating some of the competition for those slots, although the impact is being felt in a much broader sense in the short-form industry.

"There are definitely more brands doing long-form," says Joan Renfrow, president at Los Angeles-based Onyx Productions. "The fact that they're using it simply ups the price of the media without giving us a lot of value in return."

Renfrow points out that most brands are using long-form DR to introduce new products and are then supporting those efforts with 30-second DR image ads. Still, she says even those efforts are creating scarcities within the long-form media avails.

The Cost of Long-Form Production
The Cost of Long-Form Production

"The brands can outspend the traditional DRTV marketers, not only on media but also on production," says Renfrow. "In fact, the brands are so programmed to spend a lot on production that I've seen them walk away from good DRTV production firms that can give them more value for their dollar. They feel that if it doesn't cost a certain amount, then it can't be good."

Robert Yallen, president at Inter/Media Group in Encino, Calif., says one group of brand advertisers that's taken a shine to long-form DRTV is the automotive industry. Many car companies are using it to showcase new vehicles for launch. Last year, for example, ex-NFL player Howie Long hosted an infomercial for the 2007 Chevy Silverado.

The "Our Truck — The All-New 2007 Chevy Silverado" infomercial showcased the vehicle's capabilities, with Gary White, GM vehicle line executive for full-size trucks, explaining to Long how the automobile was designed to tackle demanding jobs. The show included a toll-free number and unique Web address, both of which received an impressive level of response, according to the company.

Not Always the Answer
Not Always the Answer

Other traditional brand advertisers that are using long-form to get their points across include attorneys (who are using half-hours to explain complicated legal issues) and trade schools (for explaining the wide variety of courses that they have to offer). Why the interest in DRTV? According to Yallen, a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board, it's because both lawyers and trade schools have cost-per-lead goals to meet, and long-form DRTV allows them to do just that.

And while these entrants into the infomercial space can negatively impact the traditional DRTV marketer's ability to produce cost-effective shows, Yallen says such impacts are usually short-lived. "It can affect the landscape as they can afford to pay higher rates and bump out traditional DRTV advertisers to make a big splash," says Yallen, "but typically they come in with big budgets for a short period of time."

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