New Opportunities for DRTV Producers in a Dot-Com World

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Infomercial production, like the rest of DRTV, is going through rapid changes. Companies that once relied upon toll-free number sales have discovered a new source of sales - via the Internet. This new dimension in marketing brings us one step closer to the holy grail of interactive television - a concept that has been bantered since the explosion of cable TV almost 25 years ago.


I remember working on some of the first interactive programs, which were rolled out in only a few test markets. The results were mixed, the technology was new and many of the original pioneers went bust. DRTV is one of few forms of interactive TV that not only survived the test of time, but thrived. Yet something is still missing for DRTV marketers.


Bookmarking your site. Many DRTV products sold are a one-shot deal. Once the sale is completed, that's it. The customer doesn't regularly call the toll-free number to see what's new. E-sales opens a new form of selling on a continuing basis. An Internet browser's bookmark/favorite tool has given the direct response marketer a new way of continuing the sales relationship with the customer.


If we steer potential buyers to our Web site and offer them a variety of products on an ongoing basis, we will maintain their interest as a repeat customer. Infomercial producers must now design their calls to action not only to draw toll-free volume but to bring potential buyers to the seller's Web site. With hope, the buyer will bookmark the site and continue to visit it.


Look at any billboard on a call to action; the name and address of the seller are usually put in type so small you need a magnifying glass to read it. And when the caller purchases the CD or book or kitchen aid product, the inbound operator doesn't say what company he or she is buying the product from. The Internet adds to the seller's brand loyalty, so when somebody buys a '60s CD collection and later wants other unique products that are offered only on TV, he or she can come back to the company's site and buy more.


Additional offers help. How do you bring buyers to your Web site? A sub-offer can help. A video marketing firm which had more than 100 syndicated TV shows on video set up a Web site exclusively devoted to its new infomercial. During the infomercial, it ran the Web address over the lower third of the screen. An on-camera spokesman and a voice-over invited viewers to log on to the site and vote for their favorite TV series. Viewers were then able to purchase videos at the site for a substantial discount. Voters and buyers were encouraged to bookmark the site, then revisit it and see the voting results updated weekly.


Producers should be involved as early as possible with the Web site designer to allow for a unified campaign between the broadcast and the Web site. The producer can provide screen grabs off the Avid, which can be easily transferred to JPEG files for the Web. In addition, the producer can select streaming video - actual video used in the program that is uploaded on the Web. There are many types of clips one could choose - for example, a 30-second spot or even some testimonials.


I saw an exercise infomercial the other day in which not only the pitchman repeated the Web address numerous times, but the producer superimposed a screen shot of the home page. It was very powerful.


DRTV marketers that are restricted from selling in stores can now compete with traditional bricks-and-mortar companies through sites and e-malls. It is now easier to buy the CD of your choice from CDnow than Tower Records.


The important thing to remember is that broadcast television and the Internet are a match made in heaven - both in terms of moving viewers to our clients' Web sites and providing content materials to complement their e-commerce design. In the not-too-distant future, the lower third of infomercials and short-form spots, once the exclusive domain of the venerable toll-free number, will make their way to the dot-com address. I'll be ready - will you?
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