Relative Bliss – Cable Household’s Weigh In

Nielsen IAG recently examined viewer engagement of family households with children under the age of 18 to determine which cable series are most engaging to viewers in these households.

What families are watching now
Even though the IAG Cable research chart covers households with children, most programs listed were watched by adult family viewers. The selected programs were mostly scripted dramas with adult-centered parental guidance ratings.

They included: A&E’s The Cleaner, FX’s Nip/Tuck, Lifetime’s Army Wives and TNT’s In Plain Sight. TV reality series like MTV’s The Hills and VH1’s Rock of Love with Brett Michaels also rose to the top of their respective networks in terms of viewer attentiveness.

The ratings of the shows did not affect the results in any way. All of the shows listed as higher engagement series also provided a strong environment for advertising recall.

Consumer Behavior During the Economic Recession: What’s Changing?

Yes, this current financial crisis has really shaken the American economy to its core.

Consumer spending has been deeply affected, and the coming months indicate that consumers will become even more tightfisted when it comes to all those extras like eating in restaurants, traveling and purchasing cars and other big ticket items.

Consumers hunker down. With economic conditions worsening and the financial meltdown in the banking industry resulting in a massive tax-payer funded rescue package for Wall Street, recent surveys on consumer confidence revealed to us that all of the recent bad news will significantly alter consumer consumption in many ways as people cut back to brace themselves for what appears to be a long downturn.

Certainly, there will be more bagged lunches and time spent on cheap recreational activities like watching television, Internet surfing, more dinners prepared at home, fewer clothing purchases and even less text messages being sent.

Customers changing the way they spend. A recent poll conducted by WPP Group-owned Lightspeed Research for Ad Age showed that nearly 80 percent of those who responded have changed their purchasing habits within the past few weeks.

Seventy percent said they had reduced sending overall which affected holiday retail numbers significantly. And retailers aren’t the only ones affected. The auto industry is hurting as well. The survey shows only one-tenth of respondents purchased a car within the past three months. That goes for making car purchases in the following months as well.

Adjusting to the changes.  There is a bright spot for drtv media buyers trying to determine how to proceed during a time when consumers are focused on saving money more than spending it.

One recent consumer study showed that 81 percent of those surveyed said that advertisers should continue communicating about their products during the recession because they (the consumers) are more receptive during times like these to cost-saving messages and products that are considered worthy investments.

More Consumer Response to DRTV Means More Sales

Coca Colas’ decision to include DRTV into its marketing is a big indicator of how effective DRTV campaigns can be and how far the soft drink giant has come.

In 2006, the global soft drink empire first introduced “My Coke Rewards” program. During this time, Coke didn’t use much DRTV advertising to promote its products.

Adding DRTV to the mix.  But last year, Coke marketers decided to use DRTV to increase the reward plan’s visibility. Their DRTV campaign strategy was designed to redirect viewers to visit a special website where they could enter the codes obtained from Coke product purchases in exchange for merchandise.

Coke’s combined use of traditional and DRTV advertising was part of a marketing strategy to promote the program by encouraging visitors to visit the website to establish brand loyalty.

A popular marketing strategy. Many other big brand marketers have since followed Cokes footsteps. They recognize the benefits of including DRTV into their marketing strategy. In fact, according to TNS Media Intelligence, big brand marketers like Coke have started spending a lot more money and focusing more attention on DRTV advertising.

Media buyers appreciate DRTV because it’s inexpensive, provides measurable accountability and a higher percentage of consumer engagement. Also, direct response advertising offers more variety beyond the typical 1-800 number call center.

New, cutting-edge advertising options, such as web destinations and mobile sites, are now available. All of this is available at half the cost of traditional advertising spots.

No magic pill. The downside to DRTV advertising is this: No audience guarantee and direct response sellers have the authority to preempt spots without notice if a better deal comes along.

Still, increasing pressure on marketers to provide accountability and tightening budgets are making DRTV appear to be a viable media solution that provides measurable results.

Traditional Media: Not Out of the Race Yet

The onset of the 2008 Olympic Games had many new-media types expecting the Internet to leave conventional media coverage lagging behind in a cloud of dust.

And why wouldn’t they? The number of people getting news and other information online keeps growing every day. Media buying consultants are pushing clients toward online advertising more and more. From books to music and video – what can’t you access online?

Up close and personal… Sure, the Internet kept us well informed about the Games with consistent updates on what was happening in Beijing. But there is one thing television gave viewers that the Internet could not – live coverage.

Media buying consultants could not ignore this. For those unable to attend the Games in person, experiencing each exciting event on a high definition set at home was the next best thing.

Online video can’t be beat, but it still could not compare to witnessing the intense concentration on Shawn Johnson’s face as she prepared to mount the vault horse; or experiencing those first winning moments for Michael Phelps as he searched to find his mother’s face in the crowded stands.

Online media has come a long way… The Internet has come a very long way. However, television still has a lock on offering consumers the opportunity to immerse themselves and experience the Olympic Games, Super Bowl, World Series and more from the comfort of home.

For these (and other) reasons, media buyers and media buying consultants should pay attention – very close attention.

Credit card debt and advertising

Let’s look at consumer credit card debt. Not everyone believes that consumers have exhausted their ability to spend. They have about $14 trillion in unused borrowing power left on their credit cards, which should be enough to buy a few more Magic Bullets or Little Giant ladders. However, credit card issuers are being more cautious about extending credit and some feel the next financial crisis will be the issue of mounting credit card debt, as reported by BusinessWeek.

It’s important to note that not all the news is bad regarding the economy. The Wall Street Journal reports a surprising and broad-based surge in retail sales for November. The New York Times notes, “…the American economy has a history of unexpected resilience…” and that many experts feel we will only experience a slowdown or mild recession. Some believe that rate cuts by the Fed and a plan to keep adjustable mortgage rates from re-setting higher may cushion the impact on consumers.

No one can predict exactly where the economy is headed, but insights from those who track economic trends provide some possible scenarios for 2008 and beyond.

Peter Koeppel is Founder and President of Koeppel Direct, a leader in DRTV direct response television, online, print and radio media buying, marketing and campaign management. With a Wharton MBA and over 25 years of marketing and advertising experience, Peter has helped Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and entrepreneurs develop direct marketing campaigns to increase profits.

Peter started Koeppel Direct in 1995 and has built it into one of the leading infomercial direct response media buying firms in the U.S.

DRTV Marketing Targeting the Diet & Weight Loss Market

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there is a growing concern among health care professionals when it comes to growing epidemic of obesity.

Experts’ concerns are intensified by the relationship between obesity and several other health conditions such as cancer, sleep apnea, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

Tie obesity and its health-related symptoms in with what many Americans see as an “ideal look” or “ideal weight” and it is easy to see why the diet and weight loss market continues to grow and thrive in the U.S. More than ever, Americans want to lose weight and keep it off as means of looking better and feeling healthier.

Direct Response TV (DRTV) marketing has been and continues to be an excellent way to target and capture the weight loss audience. An increasing amount of diet and weight loss merchants are using DRTV to relay critical information about their products and services to consumers.

To date, this type of marketing is considered extremely cost-effective. With the help of the right media planner or media buyer, just about any company can create a DRTV campaign that packs a big punch and yields a nice return on investment (ROI).

New Book Claims That Negative Political Advertising Benefits Voters

University of Virginia professor Paul Freedman, along with three of his colleagues, recently wrote a book examining political advertising from the 2004 election.

 In the book, Campaign Advertising and American Democracy, Freedman and his co-authors state that negative television ads actually have a more positive effect on voters’ views. These findings, released in January 2008, conflict with previous research indicating that negative political advertising has a harmful effect on public discourse.  

Freedman’s book also indicates that the more potential voters view political marketing, the more likely they are to vote. Claiming that the American public suffers from an impoverished diet of political information” and that those political ads that are the most criticized by analysts are actually “frequently informative, often funny, usually clever, and just a whole lot of fun.”

According to book reviewer Darrell West of Brown University, this book is “the most comprehensive examination of political advertising that has been attempted to date.” 

In addition to his duties at UVA, Freedman has also served as an election analyst for ABC News. Freedman’s co-authors for “Campaign Advertising and American Democracy,” are Kenneth Goldstein, a political science professor for the University of Wisconsin; Travis Ridout, a political science assistant professor at Washington State University; and Michael Franz, a government and legal assistant professor at Bowdoin College.

On-Demand TV Advertising

What is it: On-demand TV advertising involves video ads displayed in digital video-on-demand, DVR, and IPTV video streams, as well as inter-active program guides. Currently, on-demand advertising is more prevalent at the local level than nationally. It is still in the pioneer phase and offers unique opportunities to innovate DR marketers.

Who does it: According to Peter Koeppel at Koeppel Direct, everyone is getting into the game. TiVo has an interactive advertising platform that was developed specifically for direct response advertisers (and why not DRTV spots are some of the least fast forwarded ads on TiVo). Expo TV provides on-demand infomercials. Time Warner, Comcast and Cox offers Exercise TV, which reaches 22 million homes, and where Jake Steinfeld’s Body by Jake ads are inserted into on-demand workout sessions.

Time Warner, DISH, and Comcast offer short-form spots that telescope to long-form, on-demand advertising. DISH viewers can utilize their remotes to review a product, request information or purchase it directly on screen. Cox will be dynamically inserting ads into VOD content in 2008.

According to Koeppel, Time Warner also has a feature that lets digital subscribers re-start live programming, but does not allow them to skip ads in order to counter ad skipping. All of this activity (and all of this money being spent) means one thing, on-demand TV is here to stay.

Why bother: Unlike traditional “linear” television advertising, on-demand TV advertising can be tracked and quantified muck like Internet advertising. It is highly suited to direct response advertisers, since it enables the viewer to respond to offers, find out more information, or order a product or services. It also allows infomercial advertisers to most effectively utilize a combination of short-form and long-term advertising formats.

Internet protocol television (IPTV) is getting a slow start in the U.S. for a variety of reasons; however, its promise is true convergence of television and Internet. DRTV companies that have established themselves on the internet, such as AsSeenOnTV.com, see IPTV (and any technology that blends Internet and television) as a way to skip to the front of the line. According to Daniel Fasano of AsSeenOnTV.com, “our brand is one of the best positioned and most widely recognized by consumers across the two major viewing channels: television and Internet. Our “Powered By” solutions successfully bridge the gap between TV and Internet, allowing a seamless transition from viewing content to creating transactions in real-time. In short, our bridge allows for on-demand purchase advertising on a global scale.” Fasano sees his solutions working in today’s world, but also becoming a de facto “infotainment” standard as on-demand TV matures.

Wal-Mart’s decline

The formula that fueled Wal-Mart’s growth included selling high profile national brands, the growth of mass media to promote those brands and the growth of freeways, which allowed for the development of large stores in rural areas. This enabled Wal-Mart to overpower local chain stores and local brands. But today, national brands are striking exclusive deals with other retailers, the cost of maintaining national brands has increased due to media fragmentation and the growth of the Internet provides consumers with access to millions of products available online versus the 142,000 available at Wal-Mart. (WSJ) The result of these changes is that Wal-Mart has lost some of their influence over consumers and suppliers.
 
Although Wal-Mart’s influence is declining, it’s important to keep in mind that they are still a huge force in retailing. The WSJ article points out that there are other companies like Wal-Mart that remain dominant players in their industry, but are no longer defining their industry. For example, the role of definer has shifted from IBM to Intel, from GM to Toyota and from Microsoft to Google. Despite Wal-Mart’s decline, they will remain an important component of the retail mix for direct marketers. However, savvy direct marketers may now need to reassess where Wal-Mart fits into their retail plans, based on recent changes in their positioning in the retail marketplace.

Peter Koeppel is Founder and President of Koeppel Direct, a leader in DRTV direct response television, online, print and radio media buying, marketing and campaign management. With a Wharton MBA and over 25 years of marketing and advertising experience, Peter has helped Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and entrepreneurs develop direct marketing campaigns to increase profits.

Peter started Koeppel Direct in 1995 and has built it into one of the leading infomercial direct response media buying firms in the U.S.

Infomercial Testing

Infomercials are typically are tested initially and if the test is successfully then the infomercial campaign is rolled-out. An infomercial media test usually consists of a combination of infomercial airings on smaller national cable and satellite networks and local broadcast stations. An infomercial test typically runs over the course of a week. This allows the infomercial marketer to test a variety of time periods and days of the week to see if any patterns develop in terms of the types of infomercial airings that perform best for a particular infomercial campaign. Sometimes more than one offer is tested to determine which infomercial offer generates the most sales.
 
In a successful infomercial test there are generally several networks and stations that generate a profitable ROI. Infomercial media buyers review this information and then proceed to:
 

  • Buy more infomercial time on the networks and stations that performed well
     
  • Buy new infomercial time on networks and stations that are similar to the ones that performed
     
  • They should also review their database of where other infomercial campaigns for similar products performed well
     
  • Drop infomercial time periods that did not perform
     
  • Seek infomercial rate reductions to try to get those stations/networks that are close to performing to a profitable ROI.
     
  • Build up the infomercial media spending while maintaining a profitable ROI
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