Magazine article Marketing

Pushing All the Right Buttons

Magazine article Marketing

Pushing All the Right Buttons

Article excerpt

The 90s will undoubtedly be remembered as the decade in which interactivity came of age. Not because of a few futuristic trainspotters taking notes on the Internet, but because people stopped being scared of the telephone.

Anxious mothers who refuse to leave messages on answer machines are a disappearing breed. Mobile phones are no longer a Yuppie affectation and premium phone numbers have ceased to be the preserve of sleaze merchants.

Instead, phones are the conduits which allow a time-obsessed society to bank, shop, book tickets and gamble from the comfort of its own home.

BT figures bear out the point. Last year, reports the Henley Centre's Teleculture 2000 report, the average Briton made eight 0800 calls. BT expects that to have risen to 43 calls a year by 2000.

The phone might not be as thrilling a concept as the encroaching Internet, but with the price of personal computers still prohibitive to many, it has become the key mechanism for advertisers to enter into a two-way relationship with customers.

The phone's importance has been borne out in no uncertain terms by the growth of direct-response advertising on television (DRTV), which is estimated to be worth 200m[pounds] -- approximately 10% of the UK's total TV advertising cake. This speed of growth has gone hand in hand with a surge in the number of competitions and phone-polls on both television and in newspapers and with the improvements in BT technology that allow large numbers of calls to be handled simultaneously.

DRTV needed this technological change before it could become a viable advertising medium. Three-quarters of responses to a TV ad come within 15 minutes of transmission and, until recently, BT could not handle the level of customer enquiries generated quickly enough. It estimates that 90% of customers won't ring back if they don't get through first time and 37% of attempted calls fail, which could clearly have a negative impact on the consumer's perception of the product.

Now that the technology has created the market opportunity, it has raised fundamental issues for the way business is conducted.

First, there is the distribution issue of whether to set up a retail network or go direct to the consumer through the media. Second, there are questions about budget allocation within marketing departments -- is DRTV direct marketing, advertising, sales promotion -- or a combination of all three?

And finally, new modes of business demand a reappraisal of basic brand philosophy. If you insist on a one-to-one relationship with a consumer, what responsibilities do you have to build into the presentation of your product?

These questions were addressed last week at `DRTV -- moving into. the mainstream" a conference jointly sponsored by Channel 4 and BT. It acted as the forum for the release of quantitative and qualitative research gathered by Channel 4, BT and CIA Medianetwork UK.

According to BT and C4, 19% of ads on ITV, Channel 4 and satellite now carry phone numbers -- up from 14% last year.

Their research identified 177 direct response campaigns on C4 and satellite between January and March 1995, a growth of 60% to 70% on the same period in 1993.

Two types of marketing strategy were identified. The first -- `direct response' concerns the straightforward tactical goal of generating business leads.

In this arena, advocates of DRTV are simply looking to attract revenue from alternative media such as newspapers, Sunday magazine supplements and direct mail. The desirability of direct response TV hinges on delivering leads at a competitive price.

The second, more complex issue `brand response' -- asks whether a DRTV campaign can contribute to the positive perception of a brand. Given that television is primarily a brand-building medium, there are clear benefits if it can be demonstrated that two jobs are being performed with one budget.

According to the BT/C4 research, a typical `direct response' commercial lasts 60 seconds and runs off-peak on weekdays. …

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