The Perfect Blend of DRTV, Brand

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Remember those days when direct response television was -- how should we say -- a little hard-hitting? Well, DRTV has evolved over the past several years. The type of DRTV we grew up with has paved the way for where we are today. The line between direct response television and brand marketing is becoming hazy as a new type of advertising replaces the pushy salesman hawking items on TV after midnight.


The new DRTV is a hybrid of both approaches, with the common objective of generating leads and sales. Companies now present a blended version of direct and brand in their advertising to sustain and build awareness and brand equity. This is not your father's DRTV.


Products today are more recognizable because of this blending. Traditional brand advertisers are finding that bringing direct response marketing into the mix makes the campaign more effective, the recall value higher and the bottom line more profitable. Just ask the car manufacturers, cruise lines and fast food companies that are now into blending.


The creative process is identical for DRTV and brand. You need to identify the client's objectives, product benefits and product features in order to see the immediate impact on leads and sales.


Here's what a DRTV spot looks like:


• Call to action: "Call," "Look for," "Check your mail," "Call now."


• Repeat product benefits and features, and then do it all over again and again and again. Or until time runs out.


And here's what a branding spot looks like:


• Call to action: "Did somebody say McDonald's?" "Stop by your local Lexus dealer." "Visit our Web site at blahblahblah.com."


• Repeat product benefits and features, then do it all over again and again and again. Or until time runs out.


They are nearly identical except for the call to action. The primary reason for the similarity is that the goal is the same. Whether it is brand or direct, the end result is the desire to generate the lead or sale while protecting the brand. Examples of this blending are everywhere:


• The Sony infomercial promotes Sony brand, which drives leads to the phone, which, in turn, drives educated consumers to retail outlets - which results in sales for Sony.


• The AeroBed infomercial drives sales to the phone and supports residual sales at the retail level - which results in sales for AeroBed.


• Gateway DRTV drives sales to the phone and supports residual sales at the retail and catalog level - which, in turn, results in sales for Gateway.


Now that you see how DRTV and brand can become one, do the two approaches really differ? Aside from the call to action, the only other difference between DRTV and branding TV is how they are measured. The effectiveness of a branding campaign is measured by tracking product movement and sales increments; however, this tends to happen three or six months after the campaign ran.


In addition, recall studies ask consumers their recall of certain commercials - to see if a product is in the psyche of the consumer. The data are extremely important, but they lose their value in part because of the time it takes to gather the information. By the time a company determines the effectiveness of a campaign, it is well on its way to developing the next one, and it may not even be aware of what worked and what did not - and why.


The new blending of DRTV allows for an immediate analysis of results. You immediately know whether the campaign is effective, and you do not have to wait six months to see if the product moved. If calls are coming in, if product is moving, if people are going to Web sites - immediately following a campaign - then you know it is working.


Companies that use only brand advertising and are now crossing over may need to look at their methods when airing a blended campaign. Certain broadcasting disciplines are not used in a traditional brand campaign but are necessary for putting together a blended campaign. In order to deliver an effective program, you need to look at the following core disciplines:


Market and media research. Identify media that resemble and target the core market cost-effectively. Media selection is key to the success of a campaign. The message may be right, but if the targeted audience is not getting the message, then it's dollars down the drain.


Test! Test! Test! Develop an integrated media strategy/mix. The advantage of having DRTV in the message is that it allows you to test and react immediately.


Ongoing negotiation. "Manipulating" the buy. DRTV time is highly negotiable.


Results analysis. Micromanage the media budget and results so you can react, react and then react again.


Additionally, when developing a blended spot, general marketers - that may not be aware of the intricacies of the DRTV world - also may need to modify their strategies. For example, you will need to:


• Conduct continual testing of creative, commercial length, market and station.


• Construct test matrices that will yield reliable and actionable findings.


• Maximize exposure in the first and third quarters and cherry-pick in the second and fourth quarters, when time for DRTV is not as readily available or affordable.


• Use a fixed-spot supplement only when the cost per inquiry can sustain the rate increase.


It may be difficult to find the perfect blend of direct and brand, but it's achievable. It needs to be tested and analyzed. And once you find the perfect ingredients, the final recipe could make a significant impact on the success of your marketing campaign.
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