The Infomercial Isn’t Dead

Ron Popeil

As media continues to get more fractured, marketers have to fight harder than ever just to reach America’s shrinking attention spans. The blitz of marketing messages from all the TV channels, radio stations, magazines, web banners, email blasts, and text messages is enough to make a consumer’s head spin. Or simply tune it all out.

So how do you not only cut through the clutter to be heard, but actually get people to buy what you’re selling? Two words: Direct Response.

INFOMERCIALS?” you ask. Yes. And no. While the 30-minute long format spot still is a wildly successful selling tool, direct response has evolved to include other formats like short form 30 second to two minute commercials, and, of course, websites. Indeed, any marketing that asks people to pick up the phone, go to the web, visit a retailer or even send a text message is a form of direct response.

In my experience, there’s no faster, more efficient, economical way to grab the consumer’s attention, engage them, and elicit a desired behaviour.

Make a Big Impact on a Small Budget

When a packaged goods giant introduces a product, they can spend $10 million on advertising to try to create a brand. Many of the companies I’ve worked with didn’t have those kinds of ad budgets, or much of a budget at all.  But using DR, these companies were able to build multi-million dollar brands from scratch.

When I began promoting the then unknown Juiceman Juicer back in the late eighties, sales were holding flat at around $500k. Then we shifted to a DRTV campaign that educated viewers on the health benefits of fresh juicing. Our call to action pitched free nationwide seminars where attendees could learn more and purchase a juicer. Sales skyrocketed from $500k to $75 million in 3 years and a national brand was born.

The genius of DR is that you’re motivating people to “Buy Now!’ while simultaneously building your brand.  The revenue you amass from direct sales funds your ad budget.

Also, with DR, you can buy ad time 30-40% cheaper than conventional ad time. So you can create a big impact with smaller ad dollars. This past Superbowl, we ran TV spots for GoPro Camera. Most people assume that’s a one to two million dollar buy, but we spent a fraction of that to place DR spots locally in important large markets. Folks in LA, New York, Seattle and Houston saw GoPro’s Superbowl commercials–which gave the brand a major boost–and no one knew they weren’t million dollar Doritos ads.

Let People Vote with their Pocketbooks

Another benefit of direct response is that you get instant feedback on how the creative worked. While brand ads merely try to make an imprint or be humorous, DR always asks the viewer to take some sort of action. There’s no way to prove if brand ads are working. But with DR, you have an absolute mathematical, spreadsheetable, PNL-able way of saying, “This is what you spent. This is what you sold.”  When consumers respond, you can see it in the sales spike. And when they don’t, you can keep tweaking the creative until you get the numbers you need for a successful campaign.

Direct is also a great way to build up sales volume and demand. When I began working with OxiClean, they couldn’t get retail grocery store shelf space. But using DR, we got direct sales, which fuelled the media, creating more awareness and demand. A year later, retailers were calling them, asking, “How can I get OxiClean in my store?”

Often, once you’ve created enough awareness to get shelf space, retail sales explode, and you’ve hit the ground running.

Speak To Consumers and They Will Respond

With the fracturing of media, it’s gotten infinitely harder to reach consumers through advertising’s traditional “shot gun” approach. It’s no longer enough to just shout your message to the masses and hope someone hears you. DR instead allows you to take advantage of the power of direct demographic marketing.

In DR, we look at all of the consumers a brand or product might appeal to, research, then tailor the message and media to each different group. You keep the same brand images and messaging, but solve a different problem that’s important to each consumer type, and use targeted media buying to reach those individual demographics. This way, you’re talking directly to each viewer about something that interests them.

That’s the real secret behind all good marketing. To engage consumers, you have to stand next to them and find out what their needs are. In direct response, we go one step farther, and walk people through a solution. When we do it right, consumers respond.

And, when they do, we know about it right away.