Barbour Shifts Gears Into Internet-based Retailing

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When Scott Barbour turns on his personal computer and jacks into the Internet, he sees the opportunity to extend reach beyond the realm of DRTV marketing into the arena of interactive and relationship marketing.


Barbour is president of Real Entertainment Inc., a marketing company in Encino, CA, that specializes in bundling direct marketing and merchandising programs for entertainment properties.


When viewers of "Xena: Warrior Princess" respond to a DRTV offer for videos or related merchandise, as one example, Real's call centers offer them a menu of scripted upsells, including catalog offers, club membership and more merchandise. The caller contact information is warehoused in a database for future outbound telemarketing offers. In other words, his company tries to maximize the profitability of a sales lead beyond that of the DRTV offer alone.


He sees the Internet as a tool to take this process a step further by allowing a marketer to create an online community around an entertainment property or brand.


The concept is similar to the one propagated by the Internet company eBay Inc., San Francisco, which has profited from building communities of collectors who auction products and share their enthusiasm for collectibles with similarly-minded people.


Barbour intends to prioritize Internet functions in the range of turnkey services the company offers to clients not only in the entertainment industry, but in a variety of retail areas.


"We've spent the last six years in direct response and the next transition is to evolve into direct-to-consumer marketing through the Internet," Barbour said. "We understand how to generate sales through TV, print, radio, bouncebacks, catalogs and finally, retail, but now we intend to put the Internet at the front of that list."


In addition to bundling marketing programs for Universal Studios' "Xena," Real Entertainment also manages the marketing programs for "The Jerry Springer Show," Sony Music's "Kid Songs," Disney's "America's Funniest Home Videos," Fox Broadcasting's "Magic's Biggest Secrets" and "World's Scariest Police Chases" among others. It also manages marketing campaigns for "Cops," the reality program produced by Barbour/Langley Productions Inc., which was cofounded by Barbour's father Malcolm.


The company's subsidiary, Real Marketing Services LLC, San Diego, also manages outbound telemarketing for such infomercial marketing companies as Ronco, Thane International Inc., Emson Inc., and Good Times Entertainment.


Real Entertainment is considering a name change to better reflect its repositioning as an Internet company, with the eventual prospect of an initial public offering.


Principal John Langley divested his interest in the company as Real brought in a new investor, Leonard Ross, who is now the majority owner. Barbour declined to disclose more information about Ross.


"We needed a new investor in order to grow this company into a leading electronic retailer," Barbour said. "We have a solution to put companies into the electronic retailing business, build them a commerce-driven solution, manage all the back office functions and do all the telemarketing, inbound and outbound."


Cataloging Christ


While Real Entertainment builds its marketing infrastructure for entertainment properties, it also intends to move into other types of products.


Its first non-entertainment client is Genesis Visions Inc., a company owned by Shuki Levy, who is also a partner in Saban Entertainment Inc. The company has a marketing program called Jesus 2000, a Christian-based product line of historic artifacts from Jerusalem.


In addition to its recently launched Web site, www.onelightoneworld.com, it distributes catalogs and targets church organizations that sell Bibles, oil lamps and other religious items as a fundraising tool.


The products will also be distributed through Christian and religious bookstores as the turn of the millennium approaches.


Barbour intends to target as customers manufacturers with annual revenues of $10 million to $100 million a year that are unwilling to invest millions of dollars in an Internet infrastructure, such as electronic retailer Amazon.com Inc., Seattle, has done.


"Amazon has gone and spent a great deal of money to make a solution to sell books," Barbour said. "We have spent money to sell an electronic commerce solution."


He ideally would form a partnership with a manufacturer, which would not be required to expend a major sum of capital and face a daunting learning curve to establish an online marketing presence.


Real is working with Beyond Interactive, San Francisco, on comprehensive Internet traffic-driving ad campaigns that are incentive-based.


He also said he sees an opportunity to improve the online retailing experience for consumers and eliminate complaints of slow download times, poor customer service, limited salesmanship and no value-added service.


"We want to build brands and builds relationships with customers who become repeat customers of a particular brand," he said.


News Feeds on Demand


The company also launched an Internet-based video distribution service at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas last month.


The Web site, located at www.realnewsnet.com, is intended for the news departments of broadcast stations. It offers the ability to preview raw news footage and pre-produced audio and video segments which can be downloaded and purchased for broadcast.


The company has exclusive arrangements with video producers that provide it with daily footage, including "Caught on Camera" segments and "Special Clips of the Day."


"Real News Net puts us in the distribution business," he said. "Stations can download footage immediately, or we'll put it up on a satellite where they can take it down or we'll FedEx a tape."
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