Magazine article Marketing

Channels of Communication

Magazine article Marketing

Channels of Communication

Article excerpt

There has been a surge in DRTV driven by more airtime and better technology. Some industry experts predict it will become the fastest growing direct-marketing sector, writes Andy Fry

In recent years, television has been forced to re-evaluate the way it serves advertisers.

A combination of media fragmentation, increased accountability and the relentless search to reduce wastage mean the boob tube can no longer get by merely as a volume sell to fmcg advertisers.

One way it has tried to do this is by pushing the merits of direct response television (DRTV).

To those of us who recall, with a certain morbid nostalgia, the wave of K-Tel and Ronco products touted in the 70s, it might seem strange to describe DRTV as having merits.

Yet, recently, DRTV has shown it is not just a hard sell - and an increasing number of clients are testing the water.

Among many powerful reasons for DRTV's appeal, WWAV Rapp Collins media director Mike Colling thinks the key is the marketer's desire to go direct.

"For fmcg clients, it offers the chance to regain control from the retailer, while for general insurance companies it's a chance to cut out a tier of costs," he says.

Colling also cites the recent improvements in technology that can manipulate telephone data, the proliferation of available airtime and the desire for accountability as factors that have encouraged a surge in DRTV activity.

Earlier this year, Channel 4 and BT published research which showed that around 20% of all ads now carry a direct response mechanism.

And Datamonitor has underlined the trend with its own prediction that DRTV will experience the fastest growth of all direct-marketing sectors. It points out that more than half of all current TV ads in the US carry a phone number.

At its simplest level, DRTV has not changed much. For clients such as Cornhill, HSA and Churchill, it is a no-nonsense low-cost way to generate business leads. And it will be judged on that basis.

But while this business is booming, the real area of interest in DRTV is the attempt to nurture a product's attributes while also generating sales - 'brand response' advertising.

This offers several potential benefits. By using the right customer support service, for example, a client can bypass traditional distribution networks and make a significant cost saving.

Classic examples of the success of this approach include the growth of Direct Line insurance and the launch of Daewoo cars (see box).

More recently, telecoms group Orange concluded a four-week DRTV campaign. As Orange spokesman Richard Rumbelow explains: "We hadn't tried it before and decided that there were a number of people who don't need a high volume of information to make a mobile-communications purchasing decision. They are happy to deal direct."

As for the impact this might have on dealers, Rumbelow insists that it was "not an attempt to cut the throat of the retail trade - it was simply an attempt to develop a new channel of communication".

A carefully constructed DRTV campaign can also help in the construction of a tightly targeted database. Well-informed operators can take the whole process still further by building brand properties - such as familiarity and a sense of organisation, for example.

Channel 4 has been a key player in spreading the brand-response gospel. Combined with satellite, it currently accounts for around 75% of all direct-response spots.

"Car manufacturers, the COI, British Gas and Orange are getting involved. And it's amazing how much they've learned in a year," says C4 business development director David Stubley.

There are cynics who suggest that C4 advocates a branded approach simply because it takes the emphasis off generating high volumes of calls.

Stubley rejects that claim. "The main concern is among the direct-marketing community, because ad agencies are getting quite good at this. …

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