Let Response Direct You
It wasn't so long ago that when you mentioned Direct Response Television (DRTV), consumers and marketers alike conjured up images of pitchmen cutting copper pennies with Ginsu knives. Times have changed. Today, more and more mainstream marketers are turning to DRTV, as accountability becomes the rallying cry in an industry eager to show a measurable return on advertising investments. Traditional marketers like Procter & Gamble and L'Oreal have launched DRTV campaigns, driving consumers to the phone and Web for product sampling and couponing.
In short, DRTV is no longer an experiment - it's now an integral part of comprehensive multichannel marketing campaigns.
The Drive to Measure
A successful DRTV campaign takes into account total costs throughout the sales cycle, from lead generation to data capture, manufacturing, fulfillment, and shipping. These costs determine the investment a company can afford to make to acquire new customers via DRTV, while the media-to-income ratio drives media purchases, manages risks, and delivers a justifiable return on investment.
In brand advertising, Nielsen ratings provide the gold standard for "reporting" viewership. But direct response has different standards. Direct response measures not only eyeballs but response, as well - a metric that equals real people. The next question is, How do we determine the value of these prospective customers and/or sales? What is the gauge by which we can measure ROI that meets organizational goals?
Marketers use DRTV as an integral part of their overall marketing strategy and measure on a blended response rate that delivers an acceptable ROI across multiple distribution channels. To work well, DRTV must operate in harmony with other marketing tactics. Successful DRTV marketers employ an integrated program of catalog marketing, drive-to-retail presence, online search, drive to Web, telemarketing, and more. But DRTV remains the most effective tactic in providing a synergistic link across all marketing efforts.
DRTV advertising is marked by its ability to deliver real-time results, allowing marketers to turn on a dime and fine-tune schedules, messages, and offers based on actual customer response. This feature is key to using DRTV effectively and profitably.
For instance, networks and shows that appear to be "no-brainers" because of their excellent ratings and audience followings often prove futile at generating response, undermining the economics of most DRTV campaigns. Though counterintuitive, the reason is deceptively simple: People are less likely to break away from a favorite show to respond to a call to action. Even worse for DRTV marketers, these same consumers tend to use commercial breaks to get a snack, return a call, or other activity.
Instead, daytime talk shows, cable documentaries, game shows, music channels, and other "diversionary" TV programming tend to deliver the greatest likelihood of success. Are their ratings lower? Probably. But DRTV advertisers don't only buy gross rating points - they buy response.
Testing, Testing, More Testing
From a DRTV point of view, there are a number of areas that should be tested. These include the direct-marketing mainstays - creative, offers, product, and media - as well as such criteria as station, timing, season, and more.
Building an effective direct-response media plan is more art than science, and as such should be based on one part previous experience and two parts real-time analysis. Today's media tracking software enables marketers and agencies to monitor every dollar spent against actual sales. It also provides dynamic real-time data that marketers can use to adjust and optimize buying on a day-to-day basis.
Creative testing can be accomplished with various structures. The "head-to-head" matrix is designed to achieve a direct comparison, while eliminating potential media and environmental bias caused by airing different creative in different weeks, on different stations, and in different day parts or time periods. Another kind is the traditional DRTV "flip test," implemented over a two- to four-week flight in alternate rotations. This matched station environment helps isolate creative as the sole variable to test. The test period determination is based on the need to generate sufficient response data from each spot to ensure reliable results comparisons in terms of "cost pers" by market, station, and day part.
Respondent profiling is another key part of a comprehensive analysis, providing geographic and demographic information about respondents. Based on data captured from telemarketing services, responses are profiled for age and gender. This serves either to validate or to redirect the target audience goal.
Running by time period provides actionable results, as well. In addition to the length of the spot and the station, the time of day that a spot runs is a key factor in program development. Results analysis must take into consideration the effectiveness of each variable on delivery/reach.
Reporting is critical to measuring the success of any campaign. Stations, spots, and time periods that produce your target can be expanded. Those that miss the target are canceled or renegotiated to improve performance.
Some direct-response campaigns require a full-time person to track and adjust as needed. Often companies look to their media-buying agency to provide this service with specialized technology. That said, testing and tracking is useless unless the marketer is dedicated to reviewing and analyzing the results on a consistent basis.
Maria Eden and Cary Scottoline are the cofounders of Direct Response Media, Inc., a Wayne, Pa.-based direct-response TV firm. (email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org)