Respond2 Tries to Match VHS Success With Hope DVD

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The success of Respond2's infomercial for the Bob Hope "Ultimate Collection" video series on VHS has inspired the direct response company to pursue hi-tech and collectible-oriented consumers with a DVD version of the product.


The 30-minute infomercial launched in December has brought "several million" dollars in sales so far, much of which was generated around Christmas time, said Timothy O'Leary, president of Respond2, Portland, OR. Respond2 still runs the infomercial, but now it includes an offer of the seven-hour Bob Hope collection on DVD for $59.99.


The three-DVD set contains extra footage, including never-released material, not found in the $49.99 five-video VHS set. Respond2 debuted the DVDs May 29 in honor of Hope's 99th birthday.


Already, the DVD represents a larger percentage of overall weekly sales than Respond2 anticipated. Instead of the 10 percent to 12 percent of total sales the company expected, DVDs make up 20 percent of all sales from the infomercial campaign and 25 percent of sales online, where the DVD set is available on Amazon.com and Bobhope.com.


Though sales spiked for Father's Day, Respond2 has the infomercial in slower rotation than when it began, down to $25,000 to $50,000 a week in media from a high of $150,000 around Christmas. But the company plans a fourth-quarter media blitz with catalog advertising, e-mail and some direct mail.


Respond2 is developing its own catalog of products, which will include the DVD and VHS versions of the Hope collection. The company also will include the DVD in about 20 other catalogs.


For the VHS version of the series, Respond2 stuck with catalogs aimed at an older demographic, such as Harriet Carter and Lillian Vernon. O'Leary said he expected to fit the DVD version into a more diverse set of catalogs, such as Herrington, which carries upscale items for men.


"The DVD collections can fit in a lot more places," O'Leary said. "They're almost like technology items."


Respond2 will market the DVD via e-mail and some direct mail primarily to its buyer list of previous customers, including those who bought the VHS version, in the fourth quarter of 2002. Customers who bought the VHS version will be offered a discount similar to the $20 discount Respond2 offered to buyers of the VHS version of its Johnny Carson video collection when they upgraded to DVD.


Respond2 also is testing a 60-second and 120-second DRTV spot to run in the fourth quarter. Short-form spots used to market Respond2's Carson videos failed when first released but later did well after a long-form infomercial had been in circulation for about a year.


Many viewers may have mistaken the infomercial, which bore similarities to a documentary, for an actual television show, but purchased later when they saw the short-form ads, O'Leary said. Respond2 hopes that pattern holds for its Bob Hope DVDs.


"The infomercial almost becomes like programming," O'Leary said. "The short form becomes the buying opportunity."


In addition, Respond2 will offer a continuity program as an upsell to the DVDs, much as it did with the VHS version, offering additional videos for $24.99 a month. The VHS continuity program cost $19.99 a month.


O'Leary said he envisions the Bob Hope Ultimate Collection campaign to last another two to three years and involve overall media spending of up to $10 million, depending on its continued success. Bob Hope products have enduring success because the comedian, whose career began in the 1930s, developed a fan base that spans several generations.


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