Does one product need four long-form infomercials and two short-forms to describe it properly? That’s what Digital Convergence officials think Cue Cat and its companion CRQ software need, and the company turned to Respond2, Portland, OR, to develop the pieces, with the possibility of two more long-forms to come.
Cue Cat is a small device that reads UPC symbols as well as a “cue” – barcodes placed in ads or text that send a person’s browser to the appropriate Web page. The CRQ software works with Cue Cat and – with a small cord to connect a TV to a PC – with a television. When a program is enhanced with a cue, a soft bell sounds, sending the browser to a page corresponding to the television content.
The company plans to distribute 50 million Cue Cat devices and CRQ software packages by the end of 2001.
“It is an ambitious rollout, and we knew that DRTV would be one of the best ways to get the word out,” said Greg Lerman, president of the retail and direct marketing group at Digital Convergence, Dallas. “This is one of the largest and fastest product launches in history, and having your name splashed all over TV is a great way to get people coming into RadioShack to pick it up as well. It also helps to brand the product and the company as a serious contender in interactive advertising.”
Digital Convergence will profit from the distribution of this hardware only if enough people use it and companies pay Digital Convergence to have the cues placed in their print and television ads. To convince these companies of the product's merit, Digital Convergence is freely distributing the packages on its Web site, at more than 7,000 RadioShack stores, through special issues of Forbes, Wired and AdWeek's four sister publications, other national and local print and TV outlets, and now the infomercials.
The infomercials and short-forms do not contain an 800 number but instead push people to respond by going to RadioShack or www.digitalconvergence.com to order. If they order from the site, there is a $9.95 shipping and handling fee, from which the company makes no profits, Lerman said.
Tim O'Leary, president of Respond2, said Digital Convergence set three goals for the infomercials: to get consumers rushing into RadioShack stores and going online to get the technology; to create a buzz for the product via interesting creative; and to position the company as the hottest new technology product available.
To do this the companies are relying on two or possibly three different infomercial styles. The first two shows are classic O'Leary storymercials. The first is a guided tour of the town of Convergence, USA, by an “angel in training.” The second is set in a futuristic classroom where a teacher guides students through a video display of how the Digital Convergence technology changed the world. The third show is a departure from the style with a straight magazine-show format hosted by “Access Hollywood” anchor Pat O'Brien. The fourth has yet to be shot but is planned as another storymercial.
“We went back and forth with the client over the advisability of such a big rollout, as this was a concern of ours,” O'Leary said. “However, I have come to the conclusion that it does make a lot of sense. … [You must] keep in mind that Digital Convergence is very aggressive and committed toward making this the fastest technology rollout in history — substantially faster than AOL and many other household names — so all kinds of consumer groups need to be addressed right away. This campaign will be huge by our industry's standards, but very cost-efficient by the standards of traditional advertising. If the Digital Convergence campaign works the way I think it will, it will quickly become a household name via DRTV.”
The first show started airing Sept. 1 and will be replaced in its national and local markets by the second, which was scheduled to go nationwide yesterday, the same day that the two short-forms premiere on Dallas station WFAA, which is cue-enhancing its news broadcasts. The third show will take over in another three weeks or so, followed by the fourth. Soon after the fourth is rolled out, Lerman said, all four shows and the two long-forms will be running nationally and locally. Lerman added that after the fourth was completed, the company would decide whether it should go ahead with two more infomercials.
“Many shows and different types are needed not for demographics, but psychographics,” said Lerman. “Storymercials appeal to some people, others like the magazine shows. Either way our aim is to flood the market with our brand name and get people to the stores and the Web site to get the hardware.”