Johnny Carson sees success on air again

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Here's Johnny - the DRTV campaign, that is. Cmedia, a division of direct response television agency Respond2 Communications, is expanding its audience for a new line of Johnny Carson DVDs.

The agency first began offering Johnny Carson products in November 2001.

"We have a much broader range than we thought," said Tim O'Leary, CEO of Respond2 Communications and R2 Entertainment, Portland, OR. "The original audience was people who first watched Johnny on the Tonight Show and then a cult following of people who were too young to watch it then, followed."

This renewed push comes after the Cmedia division's success in 2006. According to Infomercial Monitoring Service Inc., the company bought and managed the No. 1 infomercial, Bare Escentuals' bareMinerals, and the top DRTV spot, American Telecast's Total Gym, in that year.

R2 Communications is the holding company for Cmedia, Production West, Respond2, R2 Entertainment and MSSI. Cmedia is the media-buying sector of Respond2 Communications. It manages and purchases all the time for media campaigns.

R2 Entertainment is the entertainment-marketing arm of Respond2 Communications. It specializes in developing and marketing entertainment products, primarily DVDs and music products.

To promote the line of Johnny Carson DVDs, R2 Entertainment runs infomercials of 60 to 120 seconds in length on "The Best of Carson Volume 1," "Carson Country" and "Johnny Carson: The Original Ultimate Collection." The spots run on broadcast and national cable stations throughout the United States and Canada. The yearly media budget was designed to drive holiday demand for the DVDs. The amount of infomercials is at its highest during the fourth quarter of the year. Fifty percent of sales during this period are holiday gifts, according to Respond2.

The infomercial campaign offers consumers each collection individually or they can receive Carson Country free if they purchase both The Best of Carson Volume 1 and The Original Ultimate Collection.

The Best of Carson Volume 1 costs $39.99 and has a run time of approximately four hours. A notable inclusion is a 1969 lost episode with Dean Martin and Bob Hope.

Carson Country costs $14.99 and has a run time of approximately 80 minutes. It features a compilation of country-themed Tonight Show acts including live performances, comedy acts and interviews with Johnny Cash, The Judds and Buck Owens, among others.

The Ultimate collection is a three-DVD set, which is almost nine hours in length. The DVDs feature some of the greatest moments in Johnny Carson history. It is divided into decades, featuring the best of the '60s to the '90s individually. The collection also contains a documentary on Carson and several other special features.

The largest DVD set thus far is the Deluxe Collection, which costs $149 online.

"The strategy that we keep in mind is to compile the best things that people want to see and then deliver it to them," Mr. O'Leary said.

The Carson library contains almost 4,500 hours of material within a 30-year time span between 1962 and 1992.

In addition to the DRTV spot, R2 Entertainment uses radio and catalogs to sell the DVDs.

Radio spots air daily, which feature a monologue by Mr. Carson. Spots run on approximately 100 different radio stations nationwide. Most of the stations are talk radio. The radio ads direct traffic to the Web at www.johnnycarson.com. Sixty percent of sales come through the Web site.

The call-to-action on the DRTV spot is an invitation to viewers to call and order either the Ultimate Collection or the newest three-disc set, The Best of Johnny Carson's' Tonight Show.

R2 Entertainment also works with Amazon.com to market 25 to 30 different catalogs year round, each one featuring Carson products.

R2 Entertainment has a marketing initiative with TiVo to run promotions, too.

Cmedia works with TiVo to develop its direct response media strategy. It currently has multiple clients testing direct response initiatives in TiVo's on-demand environment in their product showcases. Therefore, viewers can choose to watch the direct response Johnny Carson program.

R2 Entertainment tested and researched before launching its infomercials.

"We found that Johnny himself shines and that we don't really need to sell him," Mr. O'Leary said. "It's nostalgic for people who watched and perfect for young people who think it's strangely hip."

In the fourth quarter of last year, R2 Entertainment released a brand new three-DVD Best of Collection with never-before-released material. This Father's Day, it will launch a comedians-only DVD, featuring the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, Drew Carey, Roseanne and others.

"These are performers who are very established and we have their earliest performances," Mr. O'Leary said.

This year, Respond2 Entertainment will release a newly configured big collection in the fourth quarter. No additional information is available yet, but the company plans on producing new infomercials and campaigns to coincide with the release.

Mr. O'Leary said that selling direct is the best way for the Carson DVDs and that R2 Entertainment is very selective when it comes to retail.

"We don't want to see the DVDs in the discount line," he said. "We have control over our destiny with DRTV and we can see very directly how sales go."

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