Firms Slowly Warm to New Video-Marketing Methods Well Suited to Selling Niche Products, Video Has Not Broken into Mainstream Advertising Efforts

Article excerpt

WITH the help of video, choosing a house, picking your next cruise vacation, or even "test-driving" a car are possible without leaving home.

The video brochure, the so-called "ad tool of the 1990s," is about to revolutionize how businesses market their products, advocates say, adding a dimension beyond traditional avenues of television, radio, print, and direct sales.

The statistics are seductive. More than 77 percent of American homes have at least one VCR. Companies spend more than $6 billion a year on videos and video production, and the industry grows 20 percent annually, according to the International Television Association.

And, of course, "if you match a video tape with a printed piece - one that moves and lives with one that sits still and does not live - obviously you can see the benefit," says Donald Aaronson, executive vice president of Video Brochures, a New York company that produces customized video materials.

The catch is that despite high expectations, video as a marketing tool has failed to find broad appeal.

Dick Hodgson is not surprised. As president of Sergeant House, a Westtown, Pa., catalog consulting firm, Mr. Hodgson has watched progressive waves of technology and marketing ideas fail to pass muster on the sales floor. Often there is not enough attention to the bottom line and the public mind-set, he says.

Videos are relatively inconvenient to use and expensive to produce. Spiegel, a Chicago-based clothing retailer, flirted with videos for a couple of years, supplementing their "For You from Spiegel" catalog with a 25-minute tape on makeup and dressing tips. Customers who requested the video bought more on average than catalog-only buyers, company research showed. "But the response just wasn't high enough to get the return on the investment that we had hoped to get," says Spiegel's Debbie Koopman.

Video has had a few successes, however. Automakers, travel agents, home builders, and cosmetics manufacturers - who recognize that demonstration is the key to selling their products - are distributing videos with good results. …


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