DRTV plays lead in campaign strategy

Direct response, in the context of direct response television, used to mean one thing: Consumers viewed the TV ad, dialed a 1-800 number, sent a personal check or provided credit card information and received their product or service. As the Web gained popularity as a research tool, digitally savvy consumers increasingly turned to their computers to learn more about products before buying. With the rise of e-commerce, buyers also began opting to make their purchases online.

Today, many marketers place DRTV at the center of a fully integrated approach. They are collaborating across the agency roster to optimize all channels so that the strengths of each are maximized and consumers are more fully engaged.

Hoveround, a manufacturer of motorized wheelchairs, meets with both its DRTV agency, Mercury Media, and its online agency, iMarketing, weekly to discuss how its marketing spend will be allocated in both channels.

“We know that TV sets the foundation for everything,” says Jeff Hilton, director of marketing for Hoveround. “We use it to bolster all other channels, and we’re getting smarter at doing that.”

Marketers that deploy this model understand well the boost TV gives Web traffic, says Ronald Pruett, CEO of Mercury Media. What’s new is the concept of building a mechanism in which the marketer knows for sure that the message and media spend in every channel is lean enough to ensure ROI is as high as possible.

“The notion of building a platform either with the agency or in house is increasing. You really are starting to see the orchestration of direct mail, print, radio, Web and TV together,” says Pruett. “You run it like a trading floor, looking at your ROIs by channel daily.”

At their weekly meetings, Hoveround, Mercury and iMarketing look at how DRTV and the Web performed in concert in the previous week, and formulate a plan for how they will tackle the following week based on the available media. Search is especially important, because for DRTV marketers, the availability of remnant media can change on a dime, and it’s important that search media are bought during the times of day when TV spots will air.

“You don’t always know in advance when you’re going to air,” Hilton explains. “We ask, ‘What does the week behind look like from a performance perspective, and how does the week forward look, and how do we need to change allocation to best reflect the integration of the two channels?’

“For example, we have one upfront buy we’ve made on The Price is Right and we know that builds a lot of call and search volume,” he adds. “Other things are bought in the scatter market, and we need to talk about how to maximize those dollars.”

Search isn’t the only online channel that is lifted by DRTV. The e-mail and banner ads iMarketing creates are carefully formulated to match the tenor of the DRTV spot and take advantage of the brand “halo effect,” says agency CEO Keith Kochberg. These ads match stylistically with the DRTV creative, he says.

“TV has a direct influence on search volume, and it can also lead to greater response rates and conversion rates for an e-mail campaign,” says Kochberg. “When a brand has more TV exposure and a prospect sees an e-mail solicitation, they’re likely to click on it because they’re familiar with it. Folks that get to landing pages are also more likely to complete the lead if they’ve been exposed to a decent amount of TV ads.”

Brand marketers who see how a well-integrated television campaign can provide measurable response and inform the effectiveness of their marketing are also embracing these tactics.

A major goal of Progressive’s popular campaign featuring the saleswoman “Flo” is to drive measurable responses, says James Crolley, director of advertising for the insurer.

“We have a similar campaign we’re running online, and having this kind of thematic continuity has helped our banner advertising,” Crolley says. “Whether it drives them to an agent, the phone or online, we are trying to drive an action and we’re looking at metrics. That kind of stuff, from an advertising standpoint, makes my job a lot easier. I have a great toolkit to work from.”

DRTV marketers will continue to develop and refine these integrated platforms as more engagement and purchase channels are added, Hilton explains, noting that mobile, given its rapid rise, will soon also play a role.

“There are so many touchpoints,” says Kochberg. “If you’re not efficient each step of the way, your model can be challenged. Any well-trained direct marketer is going to want the greatest amount of efficiency.” l

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