DRTV changes channels

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A multichannel approach provides a clearer picture of DRTV's potential
A multichannel approach provides a clearer picture of DRTV's potential

Direct response television (DRTV) may seem downright old-fashioned as mobile and social marketing surge. But this traditional channel is not only highly adaptable, it's also still highly effective—even in this increasingly digital world.

DRTV is television content that's designed to drive viewers to another channel (e.g., the telephone or a website) to take an action, such as purchasing a product or filling out a survey. This alone is no easy feat. Yet, the ubiquity of handheld computing devices and the deluge of online content make the DRTV marketer's job even more difficult, as consumers' attention is increasingly drawn away from TV. Not only is it more challenging than ever to engage consumers, channel fragmentation can make it more difficult to track the impact of individual television spots.

Additionally, the shift in the way people consume media affects one- and two-minute, short-form DRTV spots, as well as long-form, 28.5-minute infomercials. Short DRTV spots have traditionally showcased products also available at retail, or that sell for lower dollar value than those sold in the longer infomercials, which have been more likely to promote health equipment, beauty programs, or business and self-improvement courses not available at retail. This has been the case in DRTV for decades and continues to separate the two types of promotions, though both short- and long-form face nearly identical challenges in driving customers online.

“The audience is now savvier. They can go to a website, which converts at a much lower rate than phone calls, and get additional information there or on their mobile. There is audience fragmentation and the metrics have gotten more difficult,” says Ron Perlstein, president of InfoWorx Direct, a marketing agency that specializes in DRTV.

But Perlstein insists that DRTV provides marketing options unavailable anywhere else; long-form informercials are beneficial to products with higher price points, for example, because the format provides an opportunity to go into detail about the products. The key, according to Perlstein and other industry watchers, is for marketers to leverage newer digital channels to enhance their DRTV campaigns, making their calls-to-action more effective than they were in the days when consumers were glued to a single screen.

DRTV practices can excel when marketers take a multichannel approach, add innovative storytelling, and use creative integration with television programming. But the industry still must resolve growing issues around attribution and consumer mobility.

DRTV works best in a multichannel environment

While DRTV marketers can no longer claim exclusive command over viewers' time in front of a screen, many marketers report that the growing number of devices has actually benefitted their television efforts.

“With the prevalence of screens, [consumer] interactivity with TV also increases,” says Beth Vendice, president of direct response agency Mercury Media's Performance Group.

On the whole, this effect has been positive, because it offers companies an additional revenue channel, according to Vendice. But she emphasizes that the rise of digital has complicated marketers' approach to DRTV, requiring them to consider how each spot ties into a multichannel campaign. “We don't let a DRTV campaign go out the door unless there's a search or email element,” Vendice says.

Direct response firm Acquirgy has taken a similar tack, recommending that marketers incorporate a strong search engine marketing (SEM) effort to coincide with any DRTV rollout. Viewers who see a DRTV spot are likely to log on to their computer and conduct an Internet search—a deceptively complicated action from a marketing standpoint.

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