February 10, 2022 Designing an Optimally Balanced DRTV Ecosystem
When I started out in DRTV advertising in the mid-90s, it was the era of the “infomercial heyday.” Marketers were raking in money hand over fist with memorable hits, like the Thighmaster, BeDazzler, George Foreman® Grills, ab rollers, and hundreds of other direct-to-consumer products via long- and short-form ads. In fact, I remember the DRTV media agency I worked for had a strict rebookable goal for the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie Grill of a 10-to-1 ROAS. And we hit it easily.
But that was a different time. Google, Facebook, and Amazon didn’t exist and e-commerce was in its infancy. Also, most DRTV marketers didn’t sell their products in retail until after their TV campaign was at the end of its life cycle. This meant that if you wanted a Ronco Pocket Fisherman or Flowbee, you had to call and order using the toll-free number and would receive your product in six to eight weeks. DRTV was the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel.
In today’s fragmented consumer landscape, things are not so simple for performance marketers. Multiple response options, a changing retail environment, and a distracted and desensitized consumer have made our jobs significantly harder than our heyday ancestors.
To combat fatigue in front-end performance, modern DRTV advertisers have adopted a more holistic and integrated ecosystem approach to their marketing efforts. This methodology aligns all aspects of the marketing campaign into one cohesive environment—including initial strategy, offer and product messaging, media, consumer experience, testing, analytics, and CRM.
The illustration below outlines the major components of the ideal ecosystem.
The famous Chinese general Sun Tzu once said, “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” This is true as much in marketing as it is in war. Having a clear and focused strategic road map is the key to marketing victory.
The first step in the strategic process is establishing campaign goals. Are you using DRTV to achieve awareness?To drive retail traffic through reach efficiency? To hit performance goals, like generating leads or sales at the lowest cost?
Some marketers want both. And usually fail at both.
For example, let’s say you’re targeting women 45+. If your goal is awareness, Lifetime or TLC would be strong choices for national cable placements. However, if your goal is to generate sales at the lowest possible CPA, you would have more success on smaller, unrated networks, such as Cozi TV or AccuWeather. If you want BOTH, the awareness of Lifetime but the cost efficiency of Cozi TV, it’s likely that you won’t get either and that your campaign will suffer.
Ultimately, one primary goal needs to be put above all others, as this drives the creative, the media selection, and the website design and experience.
Once you’ve determined your goals, what are your KPIs? For example, are you measuring and optimizing toward a CPV (cost per visitor), CPA (cost per acquisition, that is, not a paying customer), CAC (cost per acquired customer, that is, a paying customer) or optimizing CPP (cost per point)?
The next step in strategy is determining your audience. This might sound obvious, but the more effort and detail that go into this step will help formulate and drive the tactical execution. Finding your target audience is imperative to boosting sales and leading convincing marketing campaigns, as well as creating brand loyalty from your consumers.
Use data to narrow down and identify your target audience, with sources like Google Analytics demographic information from your site, social media analytics, and competitor analysis.
Marketing expert Ed Mayer developed a principle of marketing design called the “40-40-20 rule,” which states that 40 percent of the success of a marketing campaign is based on reaching the right audience, another 40 percent is based on the offer you are making, and the remaining 20 percent is based on various other factors, such as presentation and format.
We’ve already identified the importance of audience, which leaves another large chunk of success attribution: the right offer.
Promotional offers are used to motivate consumer into taking action. They help prospects overcome resistance to purchasing or to trying your product or service. An offer can encourage a buyer to order more of a given item (or items) or create a sense of urgency to encourage them to act quickly.
Common offers include free trials, free shipping, dollar amount off, percentage off, and free gift with purchase. As part of the offer configuration, some companies use a single-product method while others use product bundles (“But wait, there’s more!”). Your product structure should be compelling, not confusing. If your offering is disconnected or complicated, you will likely lose the sale.
And remember: Don’t give people more than one choice in your offering. If you confuse ‘em, you lose ‘em!
The importance of creative in advertising is very evident today, as competition among brands continues to be more fierce.
The right creative message creates brand recognition by providing value to your customers and creating meaningful connections. Consumers are more likely to connect with an ad if it is something they resonate with or if it is relevant to their interests and makes an emotional impact. If they connect with your brand, they will engage with your brand, which leads to sales and lifetime customers.
In DRTV, creative is also a balance between brand association and driving action. I’ve seen many DRTV marketers develop beautiful and emotional spots, but then fail to sufficiently tell the customer what to do next! Using graphical support and voiceover prompts, you must communicate to the customer the next step to take (that is, “Try it now at xyz.com,” “Go to today xyz.com and save 25%,” etc.). Some brands also fail to reinforce key benefits or “reasons to believe” with graphical support.
It’s also important to decide which creatives length(s) you’ll be using for your campaign. You may think you want a 2-minute spot, but have you considered media clearance levels? You may want to use 15-second spots for cost efficiencies, but is this enough time to get your message across, especially if you are a newer brand? This is not only a creative decision but also a media decision, based on your campaign goals.
Finally, talent considerations should be made. Do you want to use a celebrity? Testimonials or paid actors? It all depends on the product or service you are promoting and the amount of investment you are willing to commit to.
There are several options for advertising your video assets—many more than there were 10 or 20 years ago, including linear, streaming (CTV/OTT) and digital video. The type of media buy you make depends on your investment level, your audience, and your overall strategy.
For example, if you had a limited budget and were targeting a younger audience, you might consider CTV/OTT, as streaming media caters, generally speaking, to a younger demographic—although, as more and more people “cut the cord,” we’re seeing the percentage of cord-cutters increase in the older demographics year over year.
You can also try shoppable video, which is an immersive and interactive video platform where the displayed content is clickable through a product-tagged overlay. Viewers can find out more details about products or make a purchase by clicking a call-to-action without leaving the ad.
Digital video is a great option to use with very limited budgets or as a supplement to a linear and streaming buy. Many advertisers are shifting budgets from linear TV to video/streaming options due to not only increased viewership but also the ability to retarget web visitors.
In today’s environment, no DRTV campaign will succeed without proper digital support.
Search engine marketing is a must-have with all DRTV campaigns. This is critical not only to make it easy for your customers to find you when they see your ad (as a large percentage of viewers will search for your name or product) but also to protect your branded terms from your competitors. Have no doubt that your competitors will bid on your branded keywords to take advantage of the traffic you are driving to search.
Although it can take several months to rank highly in organic search, a strong SEO strategy is important to long-term success. The three keys to SEO are: good site technical health (a site free from errors and from slow-loading pages), a constant flow of new content tied to your most valuable keywords and backlinks (any hyperlink on a website that points back to your website).
Programmatic advertising with video and digital media is a smarter way to buy versus traditional methods. Rather than buying directly from publishers, programmatic advertising replaces human negotiations with machine learning and AI optimization. The goal is to increase efficiency and transparency for both the advertiser and the publisher.
Social media (organic and paid) are important platforms for building and for engaging with your audience, developing brand trust, and improving brand loyalty. Engaging organic content will help build your social community and demonstrate that you are more than just the products or services you sell. A solid acquisition and retargeting strategy for paid social media can help you find new audiences and remarket them, moving them along the sales funnel into loyal customers.
Finally, influencer marketing employs leading, niche content creators to improve brand awareness, increase traffic, and drive your brand’s message to your target audience by promoting authentic options of your product. These content creators already market to your ideal audience across different channels, which allows you to expand your reach across your buyer personas.
Consumer Experience Design
In the infancy of e-commerce, not much thought was put into consumer experience design. Websites usually had a primitive shopping cart functionality and were designed to take orders, not sell a product or service. Thanks to e-commerce pioneers, like Amazon and Shopify, the checkout process is as simple as one click and sites are designed with customer ease and simplicity in mind.
The other major change from several years ago is the increased sophistication in landing page testing and website optimization strategies. This charge was led by savvy digital marketers who would constantly test landing pages and website features/design (colors, images, etc.) to determine the best customer experience that would yield the best possible results. Now consumer brands are learning from digital marketers by implementing conversion-strategy optimizations, such as checkout flow, messaging, layout, and images.
Testing is at the heart of direct-response advertising in all mediums. The measurement aspect of direct response allows for A/B and multivariate testing to be performed in order to optimize performance. Always be testing (ABT) is the motto of all direct marketers.
Common attributes to test in DRTV are product/product configuration, offers, creative/messaging, call-to-actions, spot unit length, and media mix.
Analytics and Reporting
Direct response would not be direct response without the ability to measure and analyze data on a granular level. The analytics and having a robust platform that can slice and dice and visualize the data in meaningful ways are both important.
In general, it’s best to analyze and optimize performance based on your lowest-funnel metric. For example, you might find that HGTV drives a strong cost-per-response but a poor KPI; whereas, a smaller station, like Court TV, has a higher cost-per-response but a strong CPA.
Quigley partners with TVSquared for our DRTV attribution and measurement platform of choice. They have both probabilistic and deterministic models, which assign response data to individual airings with a high degree of accuracy.
Another aspect of analytics is site analytics. Using tools, like Google Analytics, you can measure site traffic and conversions related to such attributes as specific pages and predetermined goals, or conversion actions. These site analytics are critical to understanding how site visitors behave and which areas on your website need improvement.
Thirty years ago, leveraging your CRM or your customer list was not very widely practiced, as TV was able to hit KPIs without any additional revenue streams. Today, TV rarely achieves a positive ROI on its own. Along with digital tactics such as retargeting, leveraging your CRM is important to achieving a strong overall ROAS.
Email nurture campaigns are a vital part of any successful inbound marketing strategy, turning potential leads into conversions through a process of education, awareness, and relationship-building.
Nurture campaigns are all about investing in audiences. For marketers to secure a loyal audience, they need to establish relationships. And these relationships need to be beneficial for both brands and consumers. Nurture campaigns often come in the form of personalized email campaigns. And that personalization is key to encourage. These campaigns enlighten potential quality leads on who they are, what they do, and why you should buy their product or service.
Finally, calculating and understanding the lifetime value of your customer are critical to your acquisition strategy. You may determine that your CPA allowable is much higher than you originally thought and that you are leaving money on the table by canceling media that could have been profitable in the long run.
Making the Most of Performance Video
The DRTV environment is much more convoluted and complex than it was years ago, but implementing strong tactics in each section of the DRTV ecosystem can ensure survivability and success. Audit each of these areas in your campaigns to ensure that you are maximizing the profitability of your business.
— Steve Hetrick