Skin Cream Marketer Drops Network Ads, Tries DRTV

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Neoteric Cosmetics Inc. has done away with traditional branded television advertising for its skin-care product, the Alpha Hydrox Anti-Aging Kit, and is preparing a national cable DRTV campaign in its place.


Neoteric, Denver, has run branded ads for Alpha Hydrox since 1992, said Mark Goldstein, president of Neoteric. However, in the past decade the company saw network TV ad rates skyrocket while the effectiveness in generating sales diminished.


Shrinking television audiences for individual network programs resulting from increased competition, consolidation among retailers and rising rates all made it difficult for small players to compete in the network ad market by the late 1990s, Goldstein said. At the start of this year, Neoteric looked at DRTV as a way to get more out of its television ad spend and still drive retail sales.


"You get a longer message and a better chance of funding your advertising," Goldstein said of DRTV. "You get more instant feedback about what sells and what doesn't."


Neoteric this month rolls out two versions of a DRTV spot -- a 60-second ad and a 120-second ad -- on cable networks. Media placement is still being determined but the company is targeting women 34 and older.


The spot, produced by DRTV agency Respond2, Denver, features an "attractive" but not statuesque spokeswoman, said Jill Watkins, vice president of client services for Respond2. The spokeswoman opens the spot by acknowledging that she is not 25 anymore -- "You can see it, so can I," she says -- but adds that she can "see something amazing happening" as well thanks to Alpha Hydrox.


Though there are no user testimonials because Respond2 chose to focus on the offer, a dermatologist states that Alpha Hydrox contains the highest concentration of its main ingredient available without a prescription. Respond2 also opted against celebrity talent, as is often done with beauty products marketed via DRTV.


"The brand is all about real people," Watkins said. "If we use a celebrity, it takes them outside of that. Shouldn't we use a real woman?"


The offer includes a package of five skin creams for $19.95. The low price point made a short-form spot the preferable medium, though some skin-care products with higher price points use long-form DRTV, Watkins said.


Goldstein said his goal was to sell enough to fund the production and media costs of the spot. Though it has done away with branded advertising for the product, Neoteric's main sales channel for the Alpha Hydrox package remains retailing.


"Right now, the objective is to move product through our retail partners," he said. "This is a dynamic way to approach this."


Testing for the campaign began in June and finished near the end of October. The tests helped Neoteric refine its product grouping and price point -- both of which remain subject to change -- and are contributing to Neoteric's media buying decisions. Contrary to conventional wisdom, prime-time slots have not proven effective, but Neoteric is still figuring out which times work best.


Total media spend and production costs were not disclosed. For now, Neoteric is sticking with short-form ads, and with cable. Network ads are still too expensive for Goldstein's taste.


"It's not cost-effective," he said. "We may eventually do that but at this point in time the prices are so much better (on cable)."


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