Five Tips for a Successful Campaign

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Direct response television production is a highly competitive field where end results are all that matter.


Furthermore, the DRTV producer's success is measured wholly - and solely - in direct proportion to his client's.


A central thread that runs through many discussions whenever DRTV producers get together is the increasing preponderance of production delays fostered by client companies - delays that in the end cost the clients unnecessary fees and jeopardize the overall success of individual projects. Often this is because of simple ignorance or a misunderstanding of what it is that producers actually do and the process by which they accomplish it.


Most client companies see the DRTV producer as a magician who will single-handedly boost the company's bottom line. Very often this happens, to such spectacular effect that the process does indeed seem magical. In reality, it is anything but. When such success occurs, it is always a case of careful planning and a zealous adherence to a production schedule.


The following is a set of rules that help bring this about:


Point Person Is Crucial


The client company should have a point person or liaison officer, designated by the CEO and board of directors to work with the producer and sign off on all creative or procedural decisions.


Ideally, this would be the CEO himself, but if he is too busy running the business or likes to spend a lot of time on the links without a cell phone, it should be someone who has the complete trust of the company leadership.


Whoever it is, the person should be available and able to return phone calls promptly, especially when it involves spending on the project.


Stick to the Budget


Set the budget in the beginning and stick to it. Decide early on the scope of the project and whether celebrity talent will be involved. If it is, there are several layers from which to choose. Celebrities come in all sizes, flavors and prices. The bigger they are, the nicer they are to work with, probably because they have nothing left to prove and are already established stars in the entertainment world. They are also extremely busy people with very tight schedules to maintain. If production should fall behind, it can involve some hefty financial penalties.


Decisions Must Be Firm


Once decisions are made, don't second-guess them. If you are the point man and you have agreed on a star salary of $25,000 for the infomercial, don't expect to hire from Hollywood's A-list. And if you desert Hollywood altogether for the sports world, you won't get Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan for that either. Whoever is hired, stick with that celebrity. The approach to the script and the concept depends upon it.


Beware of Script Changes


All script revisions that your point person suggests (or demands) should be dealt with at one time. Here is where taking an extra day to think about them can save valuable time down the line.


Deal With Last-Minute Changes


Give the project the priority it deserves. It is inevitable that some situations will arise that call for a fast executive decision. For example, the day of your shoot, your star is injured in an automobile accident while on his way to it - or is arrested for some heinous moral offense that you know will make all the papers.


Murphy's law operates all the time, every time: "If something can go wrong, it will."


Plan your production accordingly. If it rains on your parade, you will want a large umbrella. If you want to continue in business, it must shield not only you but your client as well. Here is where immediate access to high company leadership can make a difference.


The weakest link in the chain is often the smallest and seemingly least consequential, but if it fails when it is needed most, you can have a disaster. Unnecessary delays in the production schedule of an expensive infomercial can affect to a large degree not only the viability of the project's overall goal, but also a client company's bottom line, making it harder to borrow needed funds for future developments.


This, in turn, could undermine its ability to stay competitive.


DRTV production involves a complicated sequential process. Individual tasks must be completed by certain dates in the production schedule in order for the project to move forward. A script must be finished and signed off on. Locations must be scouted, talent contracted for, testimonials taken, crews signed on and facilities arranged before a single frame of film gets shot.


Each of these tasks involves several subarrangements that must be made - and while much of this is the producer's responsibility - the successful client is constantly aware that its cooperation is vital in every step along the way.


• Ron Perlstein is executive producer at Concept Media, Boca Raton, FL. His e-mail address is ronp@concept-media.com.
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