Is Direct Response Television In Trouble?


Media rates are increasing while response is decreasing. Fewer people are watching traditional television while viewers under 30 are dwindling and certainly not calling. They’d rather go online. So let’s go back to my original statement that media rates have actually gone up, despite lower response and more fragmentation! How is this possible? According to the networks themselves, the culprit is “Hybrid Direct Response.” This new category, according to Turner Broadcasting and other networks, now comprises about 80% of Direct Response TV advertising.

After years of ignoring the effectiveness and efficiencies of Direct Response, the big boys are finally getting into the game and creating challenges for traditional DR advertisers. How is this different than traditional DR? These commercials are essentially branding campaigns that feature a toll free number and/or a URL but few other traditional DR triggers. It allows the advertiser to be more creative, promote their brand and their culture, while potentially impacting sales. Geico and Progressive are great examples. They have stupendous budgets and can pay rates that traditional DR advertisers, who rely solely on response to fund their campaigns, cannot touch. This means that there are a lot of traditional DR clients competing for basically only 20% of the inventory. The large advertisers compete for the other 80% with hybrid DR.

What Can Be Done?

The obvious answer is to squeeze every penny you can out of your campaigns. Extend your hours. Take calls 24/7 and you’ll have more inventory from which to choose. Plus, this will allow you the flexibility to put some pressure on your media reps for bonus weight. They have little control over units placed in high demand time periods (like daytime and prime) but can often assist your campaign by throwing in overnights and weekends at no charge. After all, if the campaign works you’ll spend more, so the relationship is symbiotic. You need each other to succeed. Another strategy is to generate as much “per inquiry” (PI) or “performance marketing” as possible. This is when you pay the media, or a broker, for responses rather than airtime. This isn’t an easy task but any time you know in advance what your cost per call will be it’s a tremendous advantage. Sure, you lose a lot of control over when your commercials air, or even if they air at all, but efficiency is guaranteed. That’s why you always want to supplement PI with cash media buys. If you can come up with the right blend you’ll have call volume and your desired average cost per call. The biggest challenge with this strategy is twofold. One, it’s not easy getting enough PI partners to air your offers. This is why strong creatives that have all of the necessary DR triggers are an essential component if you hope to succeed. Two, it’s equally difficult to get your cash media to pay out due to the obstacles I’ve outlined earlier. Again, having a commercial or commercials that perform allows you to really compete for that inventory because, let’s face it, you’re competing for inventory against other offers and the highest bidder wins. You want to be the highest bidder and still turn a profit, right?

How To Get It Done

This is where National Media Connection and our over 100 years of combined media experience comes into play. We’ve worked tirelessly over the last several years, adjusting to the media environment and maximizing campaigns. We spend millions of dollars annually figuring out what cash media is effective while at the same time cultivating PI relationships with top shelf media sources. And when you work with us, it’s the ultimate PI opportunity: You only pay for inbound calls. We’ve made Business Owners and Chief Marketing Officers’ lives easier by making them look great! In fact, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a front row seat at an awards ceremony where my client was lavished with high praise and a prestigious award for bringing his company’s sales to new heights. Working with NMC allowed him the opportunity to flourish because he could count on us, day after day, to supply him with quality calls to feed his growing sales staff. And he’s not alone. We’ve turned many CMOs into heroic figures within their own company. It’s the ultimate compliment to us when one is promoted or receives an award, and I often urge clients to give us even more opportunity to enrich their careers. We’re a secret weapon that they can deploy at their whim. We don’t want the credit, we prefer they receive the accolades. We’re happy just to have the business and the freedom to create the campaign we want to air, one that we know will generate great viewer response and sales revenue. So if we have an active campaign in your industry, consider this your ship arriving at port! If we don’t yet have a campaign cooking in your industry, give us a call or shoot us an email. If we feel it’s something hot or growing, we’ll invest in a campaign for you. Let’s blaze a new trail together.