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Direct Response Marketing

There Ain't No Cure for the Summertime Blues'

1 Aug, 2008 By: Thomas Haire Response

So said Eddie Cochran's classic 1958 hit, later covered by dozens of rock bands around the world.

Thomas Haire
Thomas Haire

Paraphrasing another hit song about the season (with apologies to Bananarama), what a cruel, cruel summer it has been so far for the American economy. For weeks, gas prices reached closer to $5-per-gallon than the already shocking $4 mark. At the same time, the stock markets, unemployment statistics and other leading indicators continue to falter ... if not downright tank. Banks have been shuttered and the mortgage crisis nearly swallowed twin giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

At the same time, major marketers of every stripe seem to be looking to cut advertising costs, are putting accounts into review, and are seeking new ways to reach consumers for the best value. Companies like Johnson & Johnson are putting their direct-to-consumer-heavy pharmaceutical business into a complete review. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola says it's planning to increase direct marketing spending, while CEO Muhtar Kent adds, "Our objective is to reinvest marketing efficiencies."

Listening to words like that, those of us in the direct response marketing space have to realize that — for us — those summertime blues ought to be short-lived. If these marketers' blues have a cure, it seems the DR business is a key part of the prescription.

Yes, it appears the American economy is headed for (or perhaps already in) one of its toughest recessions since the early 1980s. It promises to be a hearty test for the DR business, which has been referred to — more than once — as recession-proof.

About a month ago, Response Publisher John Yarrington was asked by a major media company in the business to put together a forward-looking essay on the opportunities for DR marketers during the next 12-18 months. In the piece, Yarrington described a "Response Hypothesis" and wrote: "In 2009, marketers should find more than $1 billion dollars of available media not consumed by the political machine ... media outlets will need to find new content and advertising to fill time purchased in what has been defined as the most intense media-driven political race in the history of our nation ... the softening of the economy and a potentially weak holiday shopping season will result in a decline in advertising spend by brands that have traditionally consumed this space."

He added, "What does this mean for direct response? More availability, more opportunity, more eyeballs — all for reduced rates. Dwindling general advertising spend will put downward pressure on rates, and, as the supply of available advertising opportunity expands, networks will look to direct response marketers to fill the void ... with more people staying home to watch TV, your captive audience will feel the emotional pull of direct response advertising."

With DR marketing's growth in recent years as a part of major branders' arsenals, it is time for those in the DR space to seize the coming opportunities. How's that for a cure for those summertime blues?

Thomas Haire, Editor-in-Chief

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