Columbia House shoots for smokin' DVD sales

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Northern Lights Direct Response Television has launched a campaign to promote a 50th anniversary DVD edition of the classic Western TV series "Gunsmoke," the longest-running drama in TV history.

The national campaign, which includes both 60- and 120-second DRTV commercials, was created for BMG Columbia House as part of their promotion of the Columbia House TV on DVD club.

"This campaign is really media-specific driven, targeting people who are watching nostalgia stations, Western stations and re-run stations," said Ian French, president/chief creative officer of Northern Lights Direct Response Television. "It's a small thing but it's a fundamental shift in the way that Columbia House has used DRTV. It's really niche, which is common in the brand world, but it's very uncommon practice in the DRTV world."

The campaign looks to broaden the audience beyond "Gunsmoke" to target those viewers who enjoy learning about the history of the frontier.

Christena Garduno, chief operations officer of Koeppel Direct, the multichannel direct response company that handled the media buys for the "Gunsmoke" campaigns in the last two years, said Columbia House had not had success with TV in the past and turned to direct mail instead.

"What's made this campaign unique and successful is the strategy we recommended about how to go about buying media," Ms. Garduno said. "What we would do is take the classic titles that we knew networks were airing with frequency and knew there must be an audience for." Using this strategy, the company ran ads against "Gunsmoke," "Murder, She Wrote" and "Little House on the Prairie."

This is a different strategy than the one the company used for its direct mail pushes.

"What works for Columbia House in direct mail doesn't necessarily cross over into TV and vice versa really," Ms. Garduno said. "It's almost a very simple strategy: 'Let's use our understanding of the media and how networks select and what's involved with that and use that knowledge and apply it to a campaign like Columbia House.' " The previous "Gunsmoke" campaign, which was season-specific, aimed to persuade viewers to order the first season of the show by offering them the second one free. The new campaign offers volumes instead of seasons and each volume includes "best of" shows from all 20 years the show ran.

"It's designed with a very strong sales message, of course, but it starts off with a little bit about 'Gunsmoke,' " Mr. French said.

The latest spot shows a toll-free number and offer URL at www.gunsmokecollection.com.

The financial details of the current and the previous "Gunsmoke" campaigns were not disclosed. However, Ms. Garduno said Koeppel Direct definitely exceeded its cost-per-order goal on the first run.

Mr. French said Columbia House had success with the first "Gunsmoke" DRTV push.

"That's why they've gone back to this one," he said, "because it's proven so effective."

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