DRTV Impacts New Media

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William Goldman said it succinctly: "Nobody knows anything."

Goldman, acclaimed Hollywood scriptwriter of hits like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "All the President's Men," was referring, of course, to the near impossible task of producing blockbuster movies.

But right now, on Madison Avenue and in corporate boardrooms across the world, "nobody knows anything" about where video advertising will be in 10 years. No. Make that next year.

Exciting. Bewildering. Downright terrifying for advertisers everywhere. Assaulted from all sides by new technologies, delivery platforms and channels, dazed and confused ad men and women, rather imperiously, even now are calling it the "New" Golden Age of advertising.

But as Hollywood director Bill Couterie says, "The line between success and failure is razor thin."

Direct response television's role in new media is equally difficult to divine. But we're already seeing glimpses of its impact.

DRTV commercials are driving robust traffic to the Internet, accounting for as much as 70 percent of orders and leads in some campaigns. SendTec's recent study indicated DRTV campaigns could increase daily search impressions up to 1,230 percent and click rates up to 58 percent. But the "new" DRTV is not just about supering an 800 number, a URL or a graphic overlay that says "Click Here." Even Procter & Gamble Co. can do that.

To be truly "DRTV" you need to have the passion to ask for the order, measure response assiduously and work a customer database.

DRTV's significant role in new media will be mostly about translating the many lessons DRTV practitioners have learned over the past 60 years into the new, complex media landscape.

Here, in brief, from somebody who knows nothing, is a vision of how DRTV and new media are and may be working together.

Linear TV

Traditional linear DRTV - short form/long form/home shopping - will be around, much as it is today, for many decades to come, although eroding in viewing "share" year by year.

The 800 number order page will forever be joined with URLs and, eventually, SMS (Short Message Service) text messaging numbers, sending millions to the Web and their cell phones for information and purchasing.

Broadcast and satellite TV, cable systems, telecommunications companies and TiVo will forge ahead implementing graphic overlays and callouts pushing viewers to telescope to video on demand and the Internet.

Video On Demand

Cable, satellite and telecoms operators are already creating showcases or ad pavilions - shopping malls on your hard drive or at the head end - where viewers can go for deeper product information.

Linear promos and commercial overlays allow viewers to telescope to extended product information, where long form DRTV will gain new life. All products will eventually have feature/benefit "chapters" from two to 10 minutes in length with response driven by remote control clicks or cell phone messaging.

The Internet

Wherever there is video content, DRTV will be there. A recent study indicates 62 percent of consumers prefer getting their video content free, and much of that content will have to be video-ad subsidized.

Now that broadband penetration is nearing 50 million households, YouTube and Internet video are booming. The gold rush is on. You will see response-oriented video commercials (DRTV) in pre- and post-roll ads, banners, search ads and on every corporation's product Web site. They will be of all lengths, from five seconds to 30 minutes.

Online infomercials create some unique opportunities due to the control and interactivity available to the viewer. The ability to start/stop/replay and even download and share is unique to online DRTV.

But video advertising on the Internet will be challenging. People use the Internet very purposefully and aren't often side-tracked by colorful banners. So pre-roll DRTV will dominate.

Mobile

Today 160 million cell phones are Internet ready. Over 20 million regularly surf the Internet on the go and nearly 5 million use their mobiles as their "third screen."

Mobile DRTV is ready to explode. Most commercials will be pre-roll and short - three- to 10-second-long messages with simple "push this key" response mechanisms for ordering or more information, and then confirmations sent via e-mail. Honda has already begun executing mini-ads (for TV) of just five seconds, for its new Fit hatchback.

Learning the craft of how to elicit an immediate response from such short commercials will be a new frontier for DRTV creatives - a true challenge.

Whatever the new media, DRTV will survive, even thrive, in an ad world that is now demanding accountability and ROI.

DRTV's influence will be felt more in message content and structuring than anywhere else. The formulas we currently employ for making a DRTV sale will have immense impact on how new media selling messages will be assembled. This interactive marketing know-how will be DRTV's most important legacy in the 21st century.

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