Direct response television is dead. Or at least that’s the way it is headed if it hasn’t exactly arrived there yet.
With increased media rates, fragmented audiences and rapid changes in technology, the ways in which DRTV is created and traditionally understood are headed for the historic dustbin. Probably the change with the biggest long-term impact is technology.
In fact, technology is changing so fast that tried-and-true business models are beginning to seem tired and old. If you’re in the DRTV industry, you’re probably like me: You read everything and do your best to keep informed about the latest technology and ways to improve performance. I’m lucky to have the added benefit of a staff that not only keeps me current on technology but also is able to use it creatively.
The death of DRTV. Of course, the most apparent technology change to impact DRTV is the Internet. By examining how it has killed traditional DRTV, we can see that it may be more of a panacea for DRTV marketers than a reason to panic.
• Historically, DRTV shapes its messages for broadly defined market segments developing creatives, offers and up-sells for an entire segment, often contacting millions of people. The Internet allows us, for the first time, to market to the individual. With the power of dynamic content, offers can be tailored down to the individual level. This is a dramatic improvement in targeting.
• When you test a traditional DRTV campaign, you have to wait for the daily order reports. And when you want to change a campaign, you have to retraffic tapes and conduct another test – a somewhat time-consuming and costly process. While the DRTV offer reaches the consumer much faster than snail mail, the clock is still set on days. When companies are placed on the Internet, the clock is much faster. We can get results within the next hour. The good news is that faster, better and more complete data help us work better. But business models that are developed are put into place, widely disseminated and outmoded faster. You snooze, you lose.
• Marketers can also offer products and services on the Internet in ways not available before. Consumers can buy products through auctions, go to sites where they specify the prices they will pay for products, combine their orders with others for quantity discounts and, what may be most important, find an unlimited amount of information about products and services they are interested in whenever they want. Taken together, these changes signal the apparent death of the traditional DRTV model. But wait, there’s more.
The heart of DRTV is still beating. Technology has changed the way we conduct business, the way we create our products and even how we review our successes and failures. But underneath the wires, electronics and software are some vital organs of success.
• Testing the creative offers and media is still essential. You need to test and test some more. This is central to the success of any marketing campaign, traditional or Web-based.
• The concept of “free” hasn’t gone out of style. Direct response, whether on TV or the Internet, is about motivation. How do you influence someone to do something, either pick up the phone, log on to a Web site or make a purchase? Consumers still want value, to look better and to feel better.
• Product is still king. Products and the offers surrounding them need to be unique with good presentations. Without the product there is no need to make an offer. But the offer needs to give the customer all the information needed to make a purchasing decision. Make sure that the product is well-explained, that the consumer knows where to go for additional information and that the customer can easily purchase the product.
The power of convergence. We hear and talk a lot about convergence – new technologies such as the Internet merging with established ones such as television. We are then tempted to think that convergence means the Internet and TV will become one box and that the marketing for this new media will be simpler. But the reality is this will not happen. No single medium is the answer.
If you build your lifeline only on the Internet and its surrounding technologies your business will be in danger. You need to drive people to Web sites. Direct response ads are a proven way to get people to react. By combining the power of DRTV with the Internet you can influence customers to buy products or make choices.
After viewing a great spot or infomercial customers now can either pick up the phone and place an order or go online for a repeat of the information and place an order. Real-time orders and data can be used to create new messages and drive momentum. Strong Web site graphics and copy can be used for spots and infomercials and vice versa.
It is important to remember that the Internet is here to stay and direct response marketers should enthusiastically embrace it. However, don’t forget that television and the elements that we have used to successfully market products are here to stay as well. The point being the technology changes and improves but the message stays the same. And the marketing message is what always will stay alive.