DRTV Finds A New Screen

DRTV has long been a key weapon in a direct marketer's arsenal.  This media vehicle provides the ability to reach and engage a mass audience via a low-cost delivery system of cable and spot TV inventory. It has become invaluable in efforts to generate new leads and deliver efficient rating points.  However, as traditional media comes under fire from new, emerging technologies, like digital video recorders such as TiVo, marketers need to reconsider if traditional weapons like DRTV can still facilitate a desired impact.

Traditionally, toll-free phone numbers were the response mechanism du jour and required, in most instances, the creative to qualify for the efficient DRTV rates (which are discounted 30% to 50% off general).  For marketers, this limited the use of DRTV in the marketing mix because of the cost and resources required to manage an extensive telemarketing operation.  This all changed in the late '90s when the Web hit the scene and URL addresses became the hot, new alternative response mechanism. 



At first, DRTV spots featured both the phone and URL mechanisms as the call to action.  As the new millennium progressed (and fears of Y2K subsided), phone numbers began to slowly disappear from the creative in favor of just the URL.  During this time, many Fortune 500 companies leveraged their website URLs in their creative to smartly qualify for DRTV rates.  This brought new, blue-chip clients and products into the DRTV fold and elevated the perceptions surrounding direct response.

This year, direct response has further evolved, and the industry is in the process of witnessing another transformation: DRTV is finding a new response mechanism in the mobile phone.  SMS, which stands for short message service, is a communication service based on the exchange of short text messages (160 characters) delivered on mobile phones.  The statistics associated with mobile phones and SMS are astonishing:

·       Approximately 95% of all U.S. mobile phones today are SMS-capable.

·       Approximately 60% of all mobile subscribers use SMS on a regular basis.

·       The average number of text messages per month exceeded calls among users below the age of 44

Based on the above support, smart marketers have started to slowly leverage the mobile phone as a response mechanism for traditional media, like TV.  During the last year, my agency has conducted multiple tests (especially for products targeting younger audiences) designed to compare the performance of SMS call-to-action to Web and/or phone response mechanisms.  In all cases, the SMS response rate outperformed traditional phone or Web call to actions. 

The latest test, conducted for a leading skin care product, targeted females between the ages of 12 to 24. The SMS response rate yielded a 5X to 8X higher response than the URL call to action.  We are now living in a wireless world, so it makes sense that younger generations feel comfortable responding to campaigns that drive them to use an instrument they have carried for most of their lives, the mobile phone.  The SMS response mechanism is convenient, easy, and -- unlike the toll-free numbers of years ago --  hip.

As our industry continues to realize the impact that mobile has on direct response, new metrics and businesses will begin to be realized.  In tests such as the above, we are beginning to gather impressive data and what I see as the first of many positive campaigns using the mobile platform as a direct response tool.  Mobile will continue to drive and diversify direct-response mechanisms and the media industry as a whole in the coming months.

It's no wonder that marketers are clamoring to develop strategic and impactful mobile strategies for their clients.   Most think of mobile as a media consumption platform, but the most tangible and constructive method to utilize mobile devices today is as a true response mechanism.  We need to understand the power of mobile.  Mobile phones and SMS capabilities allow marketers to engage users in several unique and valuable ways:

·       Capture response: name, phone, address, email, etc.

·       Create a mobile ongoing conversation: opt-in mobile CRM

·       Link to phone and/or URL (with store locator functions)

·       Couponing

One clever tactic, which I believe we will be seeing hit the airwaves (or the cable lines) in the near future is leveraging that old DRTV spot as a delivery mechanism for smartphone applications:

Act now and get your Smartphone application for free!*
 Text IDMEDIA to 467467

 * First respondent only. Not applicable anywhere. Thumbs may cramp.  

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