DRTV & SEM Together: Oh, What A Beautiful Thing!

Coming from an agency that specializes in both direct response television and search engine marketing, we are adept at tracking the correlation between the two channels. Typically, with fully integrated campaigns, we see impressions for a television client's brand and product terms trend upward in a dramatic fashion, mixed with a slight increase in general term impression volume, coupled with a healthy increase in conversion rate. Sounds intuitive, right?


It is a proud agency moment when everything falls in line for us to assemble the perfectly integrated strategy for both channels. After all, my agency got into the search business several years ago in response to the migration of responses occurring online. Unfortunately, we rarely have the opportunity to publish these case studies, due to the competitive nature of our clients' businesses.

The availability of Google Trends and the upgraded insights for search tools have given us a terrific, third-party view of this fascinating juxtaposition between DRTV and SEM. For example, a few weeks ago, the Discovery Channel introduced a new television series entitled "Pitchmen," which chronicles the everyday lives of infomercial personalities Billy Mays and Anthony Sullivan. Throughout the show, they introduce potential new products and talk about whether or not each product will make it.



Following the episode that featured a product called the Dual Saw, our senior vice president of media went online to check out its cost. Upon reaching the search results page, she hit a dead end. None of the links she clicked on for worked. She assumed the site's malfunction was a direct result of the overwhelming traffic it must have received in the wake of the show. We took a look at  Google Insights for the phrase "dual saw"; in fact, a tremendous peak in activity was evident immediately following the show that aired April 22 at 10:00 pm. So most likely, our senior vice president of media was correct; the site really was overwhelmed by the interest generated by the show. With our interest piqued, we wanted to see how Americans responded to other products featured on the show.

Collectively, we could recall four products from the first two episodes. We then looked at the interest trends on the  Dual Saw, GPS Pal, Impact Gel and Shuffles. It was quite interesting to see the exact trends that Mays and Sullivan had predicted -- or was it? You see, they expected great things from the Dual Saw, mediocre things from Impact Gel and Shuffles, and little faith in the GPS Pal. There are really two hypotheses about these trends:

1.) These guys are masters in DRTV and intuitively know what will captivate consumer interest.
2.) The perceptions they conveyed during the show influenced consumer response.

Obviously, I lean towards #1. Those who know DRTV know it very well. I have seen my agency's strategists turn away projects when they know a product doesn't have what it takes to succeed. So I'm guessing that as two of the most notable names in infomercials, Mays and Sullivan have a thorough checklist of characteristics that they use to predict success of new product initiatives. I think they really are that good, but the influence did precede the response. So which came first, the chicken or the egg?

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