For companies interested in selling direct to consumers,
the Internet and television are the most powerful tools and have
the greatest attraction. It’s mediums that set marketers
to dreaming of massive call volumes, massive numbers of orders,
and massive profits. Reaping the profits and minimizing the
headaches on the Internet and in television direct response require
careful attention to all of the following elements:
The product (or service or cause)
The Media buying
Back-end marketing (resales)
The importance of each of these points is related to the medium
you select: a) the 60 second, 90 second or 120 second commercial;
b) program length commercials: a 30 minute to 60 minute infomercial;
c) selling to a shop-at-home television network, d) using the Internet
to advertise your product or service.
— APPLICATIONS OF DIRECT RESPONSE TELEVISION
and THE INTERNET —
Applications of the direct response advertising have become increasingly
diverse. Current users of the TV media mix are engaged in one
or more of the following techniques.
The oldest type of commercial is still the most common.
In the 1950’s advertisers began soliciting orders for records
and kitchen utensils on television. Today orders are getting
generated for magazine subscriptions, exercise equipment, power
tools, video cassettes, and an array of other products.
TV is being used by both consumer and business-to-business
marketers as a means of generating leads, which are then followed
up by mail, outbound telephone, or sales visits. Insurance,
investments, office equipment, and high-ticket consumer products
have been successfully marketed in this fashion.
This is also referred to as a Tag Commercial because the
call to order is tagged on to the end. A number of advertisers
urge viewers to call for the name and location of their nearest
dealer who carries the advertised product. Dealer locator
calls can also serve a lead generation calls if the caller’s
names are captured for a later follow-up.
Non-profit organizations, such as “Save the Children
Foundation” have made extensive use of television commercials
to generate pledges.
Continuation of Advertising Message
A recent use of the phone call in response to a TV ad has
been to continue the advertising message. Carrier Corporation,
for example, urges viewers who are suffering from the heat to call
an 800 number. Callers reach a tape-recorded message that
gives detailed information about the effectiveness of the Carrier
Heat Pump air conditioning system.
If you are contemplating the use of TV or Internet direct
response as a means of generating orders in a one-step campaign,
your first task should be to gauge the suitability of your product
or service for direct response advertising. If your product
has a competitor on the air right now and that product is selling
well, you probably will do well. Take it to a non-traditional
retail outlet, go to a home show or county fair, do not assemble
a focus group. Pitch the product and try to sell it.
First watch what your audience does. Pay no attention at first
to what they say. Their eyes and their interest in the product
are very telling. Next, see if anyone buys. Lastly,
listen to their questions. Their questions will tell you where
to tweak your message. If possible, try a print ad.
It’s not a 100% litmus test, but it’s as close as your
going to get. If a print ad is successful, you can bet that
a TV ad will follow suit. If print is unsuccessful, find out
why. It’s not a 100% sure thing one-way or the other.
But testing in print is a good idea. To be successful at order
generation, you should be certain that your product meets the following
The most import criterion is uniqueness; your product must
be perceived as unique or it must be offered at a price that is
unique or it must include a premium that is unique. You can
sell ordinary socks or paper clips that are not different from those
available at the corner store, but you must add something to the
product, to the story, to the sale that makes it unique and immediate.
In a few instances, products that are widely available in stores
have been successfully marketed through TV and the Internet.
But it must be done creatively. Uniqueness is not as necessary
with lead generation and with shop-at-home television.
Defining and presenting a product’s emotion is the
single most often overlooked part of product suitability.
Features, price, appeal, equally important, are present in all commercials.
Product emotion is the characteristic of successful commercials.
Example: Bee Pollen, a natural nutritional supplement.
This had been advertised on TV many times by bee pollen harvesters.
None were successful. When the emotion we created for the
client was applied, the sales increased exponentially. The
late Jim Sweeny with the Sweeny Agency in Chicago captured the emotions
of “d-Con” Rat Poison with a single photograph and no
copy. He simply showed a black and white picture on TV of
a baby’s playpen. No baby was present. Only a
Raggedy Ann doll, torn to shreds. Unless you define and present
your product’s emotion, you will not be successful in TV.
Until about 1988, most professionals argued that no product
with a price of over $20 could be successfully sold on TV.
Many higher-priced products had been tired and had failed.
However, as cable stations have begun to deliver upscale audiences,
orders on 2-minute spots have been generated for products with tickets
of $100 and more. The Jack Nicklaus “Golf My Way”
video cassette was sold for $70 on a 120 second commercial.
Infomercials often sell products priced in the $20,000+ category.
And shop-at-home TV has sold items into the $10,000’s.
What’s the best price? Will a lower price sell more?
Will a higher price work? That’s all in the testing.
Can I start at one price and change it upwards? Yes!
Richard Simmons’ “Deal-A-Meal” started out at
$14.95 in the late 80’s. In the Spring of 1992 it was
up to $139.95! Solo-Flex is over $1,000 and doing quite well
even though they started at $99.
Marketing costs per unit sold will usually be significantly
higher in TV direct response than with conventional retail and the
Internet, and slightly higher than print direct response marketing.
Hence, the mark up on your product needs to be watched closely.
Enclosed are Revenue Tracking Charts that show where the revenues
go and how to budget. As a rule-of-thumb, for a direct sale
on a 120 second or less commercial, you’ll need an absolute
minimum of 3:1 mark up over product cost with 4.25: 1 being ideal
minimum. Infomercial mark ups needs to be 5:1 on products
that do not have a strong after-market sales potential and 3:1 on
those that do have a continuity to them.
Choosing An Agency
Occasionally, advertisers will attempt to produce their
own direct response commercials without the help of a direct response-advertising
agency. David Ogilvy commented in his book Ogilvy on Advertising,
a must read for everyone in the business, that when it comes to
direct response look to a direct response agency. That’s
why Ogilvy bought Alvin Eicoff’s, A Eicoff & Sons, in
Chicago. Direct response is a business unto itself.
An experienced agency will write you a script that sells product.
Not cute. Not memorable. Not flashy. Not expensive.
But one that sells merchandise. If a direct response ad fails,
there’s nowhere to hide. The blame is easy to spot.
If a brand awareness or impression ad doesn’t work, well,
it could have been timing, placement, consumer appeal: you’ll
never know for sure just what went wrong. When direct response
doesn’t work, the perpetrators take the heat.
Remember: There is a great deal of difference between an
ad that is designed to produce sales in retail outlets and one that
is meant to generate direct orders. A direct response ad is unique
in that it must motivate the viewer to take an immediate action.
As a result, direct response ads present a different set of creative
problems than do other types of advertising.
A note of warning. There are fly-by-night agencies.
They’re known as turn & burn companies. They quick
grab $5,000 and more from unsuspecting clients promising them huge
exposure – “We’ll get you in front of 50,000,000
households….” and deliver nothing. GET REFERENCES!
CHECK THEM OUT! And, as you’ll read further, the number
of exposures, or, the number of households your product is exposed
to, has nothing whatsoever to do with orders. It’s been
proven again and again.
How much do agencies charge? Some ask for a fee against commissions.
Some clients pay a limited fee and a percentage of the sale.
Negotiate what’s best for you.
PART II. — The Internet
The challenge of the Internet is to get ‘visitors’
to your site. One uses the same techniques of infomercial
marketing when creating one’s web-site.
1. Search Engine Placement — Submitting your site to
the major (and minor) Search Engines can be done in-house using
any one of several computer programs selling for under $100.
I use “Web-Position Gold”. A good program will
go over everything you need to do and what not to do. You
need to allow a minimum of 6 weeks for your site to be accepted
by a Search Engine, some take over a year.
2. Pay-Per-Click Advertising– This popular method means
you pay the Search Engine company each time a visitor ‘clicks-on’
to your site from their Search Engine. These costs can be
as little as 1¢ or as high as $100 or more. You can check
these costs with each Search Engine company. You can also
go to www.Overture.com, a major Search Engine owned by Yahoo!.
Overture allows you to see exactly what your “Key Words”
are selling for. You can put limits on your spending by setting
a predetermined limit.
3. Affiliate Advertising– This allows you to put your
logo on someone else’s site. You pay for placement just
as you would for a print ad.
An inexpensive method to get visitors to your site is to run small
classified ads. You can get a small classified ad in USA Today
for as little as $60 per day.
Be sure to include your web-site’s address (URL) in all your
If you can afford a $25,000 annual print advertising budget, you
can get $125,000 worth of print advertising in newspapers and magazines
coast-to-coast. The caveat here is that your ad must be a
direct response ad, and, you cannot already be an advertiser in
the journals you select.
The Internet promises to overpower all other forms of advertising
in the future. Without a big budget, you need to allow for
the time needed to build your site’s awareness.
Like all direct response ads, test, test and retest. Keep
your site up-to-date. Include ‘links’ to resources
visitors can use.