Mobile Devices Might Upend DRTV

As consumers increasingly watch TV with a smartphone in hand, it bears asking whether the direct-response TV (DRTV) business will suffer. The changing behavior gives advertisers a chance to get the immediate results DRTV can generate, while avoiding associated lower-quality spots with D-list endorsers and a 1-800 numbers filling half the screen.

Marketers are benefiting from a “bounce” effect, where a TV spot piques interest and a person swiftly taps the smartphone or tablet keypad to search for more information en route to making a purchase.

“The sofa has become the new digital checkout aisle,” said Chris Robison, a strategy executive at Adobe Systems Thursday at an ANA TV and video forum.

True, a person vegging out with an iPhone can just as easily dial 1-800-GET-GOLD as hit up a Web site. But isn’t the first instinct of every 18-to-34 year-old now to type rather than dial?

A load of Super Bowl spots were Shazam-enabled, allowing viewers to tag them and interact via the remote control. And, at least the game’s first two spots had a Twitter hashtag prominently displayed.



Both opportunities pose a challenge to DRTV. Each allows an advertiser to run a well-produced, brand spot, while tracking how many people engage on another platform.

Shazam can facilitate near-instant purchasing, while Twitter is sort of a middle man.

Yet, a spike in Twitter traffic and conversation offers a clue about an ad’s effectiveness. Look a step ahead to online purchase behavior during, or in the aftermath of, a tweeting blizzard and, well, that’s pretty much direct response.

"All that is super doable now because of the mobile device," said Mike Proulx, a senior vice president at agency Hill Holliday and author of "Social TV: How Marketers Can Reach and Engage Audiences by Connecting Television to the Web, Social Media, and Mobile." 

The author added that marketers are “missing the opportunity to get peoples’ attention within the moment of awareness” if they don't use a TV spot to offer immediate connection.

Cost savings can result. If Shazam and Twitter users are conducting e-commerce, that would seem to cut down on some of the costs in the traditional direct-response fulfillment process.

Some networks might not mind a move away from DRTV. Major brands aren’t exactly keen on sharing a pod with the Franklin Mint. DRTV, however, giveth and taketh away. DR advertisers can pay top dollar and fill unsold time.

DRTV isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, there’s probably data showing growth.

Shazam and Twitter may also be direct-response tools for large brands that don’t use DR at all. And, no question there is a pool of advertisers that want to get to the point -- dial now -- and don’t want to risk consumers missing a Shazam bug on-screen or hire a social media agency to interpret Twitter data, which isn’t cheap.

In that vein, some marketing executives note that following a path from Twitter or Facebook to the Amazon checkout is inexact and cumbersome.

“It has to be well-thought out,” said Mark Kaline, who oversees marketing for Kimberly-Clark. “You probably have to connect a lot of data processing and systems.”

Others would say referencing social media as a tactic similar to DRTV is more than a stretch.

“I would think a DRTV person would tell you social just gets in the way,” said Tom Cunniff, a vice president in interactive communications at Con Agra.

Adobe’s Robison noted stats showing Tim Tebow generated thousands of tweets per second after a touchdown pass or Adele after a Grammy performance are impressive, but “it’s important to make the distinction between activity and the impact on business.”

Even if Shazam and Twitter -- and cousins both current and coming -- fall short in driving heavy t-commerce, both can provide a valuable testing ground for an ad’s impact, which can inform planning on what’s next.

“It is absolutely happening now,” said Proulx, who wrote the book.

2 comments about "Mobile Devices Might Upend DRTV ".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, February 17, 2012 at 2:05 a.m.

    David -

    Interesting column. But as a DRTV expert, I think the topic wanders so far off base there's really nothing here about DRTV - a medium which is thriving now and for the foreseeable future.

    I won't, in any way, suggest that DRTV faces no challenges. But I found this column misses completely DRTV's impact and power. The interaction & shopping aspect is a only a portion of DRTV power (the minority portion). DRTV thrives with longer messages that reach out to people when they're receptive to learning about things outside their typical range of interests. And that communication affects all sales channels from retail to web to catalog & direct.

    Mobile TV's very limited reach out abilities (it's achilles heel) make it something so far different from DRTV. And it hass miserably limited message capabilities. (C'mon, comparing a 2 minute spot or a 30 minute infomercial with a tweet? This is tongue in cheek...right?) There's really not a legitimate comparison here (although one can always find experts to try to hop on the latest new media bandwagon. Will new media make coffee makers obsolete? Some think so...).

    The quotes from folks in industries in your article were particularly surprising - I thought it would have at least come from people who know DRTV. Perhaps they do. But the specific content they offer has nothing to do with DRTV.

    There is some bounce effect from TV to other mediums. And a fractional bounce through the social space is to be expected. But lets not try to turn that fraction into "replacing the entire DRTV universe"...


    Doug Garnett
    Author, "Building Brand with DRTV", Founder & CEO of Atomic Direct, and a 20 year DRTV practitioner.

  2. Stephen Pickens from Pick Consulting, February 17, 2012 at 9:36 a.m.

    At Kre8 Media, we have mastered the methodology of connecting online response to TV advertisements using time-based algorithms (basically a click through from TV). We call it vanity tracking and it doesn't even require a unique response mechanism, so our strategy won't compromise brand equity - you can use on every channel. We are at the forefront of brand response with this rare yet effective approach to TV advertisement tracking - our clients in online gaming, entertainment shopping, and eCommerce have all enjoyed massive success utilizing our services

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