Deals abound for DRTV

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Thanks to negotiable rates and desirable time slots, some products see rising DRTV success
Thanks to negotiable rates and desirable time slots, some products see rising DRTV success

If you've seen infomercials for the NordicTrack in prime time on A&E, ABC Family, or E; Snuggie blanket spots during an evening slot; or learned about the PedEgg during top viewing hours on CNN, you are witnessing a significant shift in television advertis­ing thanks to the economic downturn. Direct response television ads now appear more and more regularly in prime-time spots.

In today's environment, many indus­tries are hard-pressed to find sectors that are thriving. But in marketing, with major brands scaling back their traditional advertising dollars, DRTV just might be that sector.

“We're in a time when, more than ever, ad dollars need to be account­able,” says Rob Medved, president and CEO of Cannella Response Televi­sion, which does media buying for products such as the GT Xpress 101, a countertop electric cooker. “We're in this era of accountability, and that's direct response.”

Michelle Cardinal, president and founder of R2C Group and CEO of its media division, Cmedia, which heads up the NordicTrack spots, points out that in every downturn there is a silver lining. “What we're seeing is this major shift in the way people think about television advertising,” she says. “I hate to say it, but it's kind of exciting.”

Both long-form infomercials and short-form DRTV spots, experts say, have their own unique opportunities. Short-form spots obviously benefit the most from tighter TV ad budgets for big brands. Before the recession, if a DRTV advertiser wanted to run its ad during prime time, it would have to decide far in advance, and pay the same premium rate. But now, the time is not only available, but at a remnant, direct response rate.

“We're seeing tons of these fire sales — unsold inventory offered up at the last minute — which is perfect for us,” Cardinal says. “We always have bud­gets and money to spend as long as rates are right.”

Traditional advertisers, she contin­ues, don't have that luxury. “General marketers spend the money up front and plan their quarters in advance. They're not typically positioned or sit­uated to pick up deals,” she explains.

There are also opportunities for marketers, in long-form formats such as 30- and 60-minute infomercials. Because the time slots for this type of program are more or less fixed, supply and demand plays a big role in media placement, says Medved: “We're see­ing the relationship of the consumer spending driving the cost of the media down because the demand isn't as high as it's been in the past,” he explains.

Cardinal agrees, saying that response levels from long-form DRTV spots dropped going into the fourth quar­ter of 2008, so those marketers began cutting their budgets. “The long-form world is really responsive to dropping response levels,” she says. “When you cut the [media buying] budget it creates more supply [for networks] and you can negotiate the rates.”

She says this resulted in discounts up to 20%. “That's huge for the long-form business,” she continues. “This is an industry where the rates continuously go up quarter to quarter.”

In November, Fox made a previous­ly unprecedented move among major networks: It announced a two-hour slot for long-form DRTV marketers on Saturday morning that had been previ­ously occupied by cartoons. Because of a lawsuit with 4Kids, the company that produced the cartoons, the original programming was cut.

Medved says this is a “gold mine” for the DRTV world: “You're talking about one of the highest volume time periods for paid programming,” he says.

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