AMN Propels DRTV Into Interactive Age

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The company that sparked the revival of the Per-Inquiry direct response television industry, AMN Television Marketing, Temecula, CA, said it will be the first DRTV company to embed all of its spots with interactive television capabilities.

Set to launch first quarter, viewers will be able to click on an icon appearing at the top of their TV screen to connect to AMN's Web site to view and buy products. The source code is transmitted to television via the same signal and process as closed-captioning. "Why would a traditional direct response advertiser spend the money that's required to put a URL integrated into their commercial?" asked Rich Christensen, vice president of marketing. "For them, it would be too expensive, but through Per Inquiry, we have a full concept, and that's why we did it. It's just another way for us and our stations to profit."

When the company first began highlighting product makers' Web sites at the call-to-action, many of the 350 broadcast stations across the United States and Canada complained that they were not getting potential e-commerce revenue. "We were fortunate that we had the technical ability to bring the solutions to our partner stations and to the market," said Joseph Gray, CEO of AMN TV.

Tracking the payout to stations wasn't a problem when viewers called toll-free telephone numbers because each station received a different number. In order for stations to get a cut of the products sold over the Web, AMN would have to come up with a completely new way to track which specific spot the consumer responded to. To alleviate this concern, Gray developed the 800Web program, launched in the first quarter of last year. This program allows the station's toll-free number in an ad to also serve as the Web address.

All those responding to the Web, regardless of the 800 number/URL, are directed to the 800Web Mall for purchases, and further cross-selling or upselling opportunities. The original toll-free number is then embedded onto any order the customer makes, and the station gets a share of the potentially perpetual profits.

"A customer could use a bookmarked 800 URL to connect to the site a year after a spot is finished airing - and that station will still get a share of the profits," Gray said. He has also recently implemented AMN's Web-to-Web program, which shares profits with stations that link their sites to 800Web Mall. This service, Gray said, will also soon be rolled out to any Web site that wants to link itself to the network. "We have television stations earning great profits from linking their sites onto the Web-to-Web program," Gray said. "Why shouldn't we let normal sites do the same? This way, any site promoting 800Web Mall with a link button will receive a share of the profits made from consumers clicking through that ad."

"When a station chooses to work with us on a Per-Inquiry basis, they are risking no initial fee and starting their own e-commerce business," Gray said. "They receive profits on orders and upsells from the spots' call-to-action 800 number, Web site hits, and from viewers who make purchases by reaching the site through links on the stations home page or through this new interactive system."

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