DRTV is the heart of Zestra's touchy campaign

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DRTV is the heart of Zestra's touchy campaign
DRTV is the heart of Zestra's touchy campaign

As much as the marketing landscape changes, many of the DRTV aspects that made it attractive to marketers for decades remain unchanged. Direct response advertisements, particularly long-form infomercials, allow marketers to explain and demonstrate their products to consumers with a depth that is increasingly difficult in a digital world where immediacy and rapid sound bites dominate.

Infomercials are particularly useful for a product like Zestra Essential Arousal Oils, a topically applied product meant to increase arousal in women. The product's target audience is women over the age of 35 in a committed relationship who are looking to enhance their sex lives. But a Google search for “sexual enhancement,” or similar terms is likely to pull up search results for Viagra or products that don't necessarily cater to women in long-term relationships.

“‘Sex' is the most expensive word on the Internet, and it gets you to a language and content that women aren't looking for,” says Rachel Braun Scherl, president and cofounder of Semprae Laboratories Inc., which produces Zestra. “You cannot build a new brand in an undeveloped category with online alone—it's a combination that makes the difference,” she says.

DRTV changes channels

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

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The company has run 60-and 120-second spots on stations that reach its core audience. Featuring women in the brand's target age range speaking to the camera or to one another in a matter-of-fact, conversational way about sex, the ads allow Semprae to explain the product in a manner that breaks from the traditional language of sexual enhancement products.

“Actually giving vocabulary and creating a conversation on female sexuality in the context of DRTV is extremely important,” says Braun Scherl. “DRTV in the 60- or 120-second format is able to help the consumer understand that story in a direct and personal way.”

DRTV in a digital world

Ron Perlstein, president of InfoWorx Direct, agrees that as digital has taken off, in many ways the value of DRTV spots has increased. “I will say what I've said since the dawn of the Internet: Television is still the most powerful mass medium,” he says. “With the proliferation of over 100 cable networks, we can target virtually any demographic from little kids to teenagers on up.”

As online and offline become increasingly entwined, opportunities for DRTV appear likely to grow even further. Rob Medved, CEO of Cannella Response Television, envisions a future where viewers watching a DRTV spot can push a button on their remote, allowing for a direct order and delivery to their door of whatever product is being advertised. He calls this, “the iTunes model,” likening such a situation to the ease of Apple's music and media download service.

Ultimately, the connection between channels—from TV to online or from TV to the mobile web—is where the path-to-purchase or action is most unreliable. “The speed and e-commerce shopping part of [DRTV] is still very clunky, but in a perfect world it would give us complete attribution and take the stickiness out of the process,” says Medved. “It's probably a good three to four years before you see anything of significance like that develop.”

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