Infomercial Marketers Debate Meaning of Success

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Infomercial marketers have been known to bemoan the declining success rate of infomercials during the last couple of years, but the measure of success varies depending on who you talk to.

While some marketers measure success purely in bottom-line sales results, others look at the impact of a DRTV campaign on sales in other marketing channels, including catalogs, print and retail.

Infomercial monitoring company Jordan Whitney Inc., Tustin, CA, says that of the approximately 600 infomercials produced last year, 12 percent were successful by its standard of measurement.

"It all depends on how you count it," said John Kogler, publisher of Jordan Whitney's Green Sheet. "If a successful show is updated then re-released, is it still a success? Success is accomplishing what the producers set out to do. If they wanted to drive retail sales and they get people to go into the stores to buy the product, they will still run the program at a loss if they are making it up in retail."

The Tyee Group, Portland, OR, produced seven infomercials last year, with one of those yet to air.

"What we are finding is that since we are working with Fortune 1000 companies they are not looking at whether it did 2:1or 3:1," said Rick Petry, vice president of media at Tyee. "Success or failure for these companies is not in those ratios. The paradigm has shifted and these companies have other goals. The old model is out of date and part of that is due to the escalation of media rates."

Petry said the entry of major corporations into the DRTV arena has driven up media rates, which has made it more difficult for so-called infomercial "entrepreneurs" to air moneymaking programs. Often, corporations are not looking to make a profit from TV, he said,but want to build awareness and drive retail sales.

"DRTV is an opportunity to bulletproof your brand," he said. "When someone goes into a store to buy a Magnavox television they saw advertised in a half-hour show, they won't let the sales clerk sell them a Sony just because the clerk might get more of a commission. In this way, the half-hour format becomes a powerful tool."

Another company boasting a success rate better than the industry average is Hawthorne Direct, Fairfield, IA. The company produced nine infomercials last year, six of which rolled out nationally.

"One of the reasons we have a 46 percent success rate is because we try really hard to qualify products in terms of what is working, what was working and trying to predict what will be working," said Karla Crawford, new business account executive at Hawthorne. "It also depends upon the positioning of the production company for us. Since we are a full service agency, we pick the products we think are going to do well. We spend a lot of time revising and fine tuning shows also before they roll out." n

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