Not Your Father’s “Yell And Sell”

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By Biff Burns, Senior Director, Corporate Direct Response, Mercury Media Boston

After this past weekend of football, award shows, and the standard fare or reality and crime shows, it continues to be obvious that marketers are not willing to give up TV. I’ve been in the marketing business on both sides of the desk and I can tell you that TV has always been in the mix and always will be. Internet has set up a “careful what you wish for” kind of accountability mentality, which is positive. Do marketers really want to know what kind of affect those TV spots have in the Golden Globes? Can they handle the truth?

The truth is that the accountability that marketers find so attractive about the internet can be found within direct response TV. It’s not your father’s “sell and yell” late-night twilight zone anymore. It’s more like a parallel universe. A universe in which marketers can find many similar advantages to digital marketing. I would like to point out just three of them:

Optimization: On the internet if a display creative or search keyword doesn’t work, you can find another and try that, and if that doesn’t work, check the sites/content you’re advertising on. That kind of optimization approach is not exactly as simple with DRTV, but I think marketers would be stunned to know how much optimization is available with DRTV. First of all, the offer is tested with key customer groups and more importantly, the media is tested. If an offer isn’t working during a certain daypart, on certain programming, it can be changed to find content and dayparts that work. Like online marketing, that term “works” is defined by ROI. DRTV is optimized until the best possible ROI is reached.

Accountability: As I asked earlier: “can you handle the truth?” Online, brands and agencies have been debating the truth from a fact-based basis. Brands know exactly how many people saw an ad or search phrase and they know how many people interacted with. For DRTV, the audience is still a scientific estimation. But the interaction is not. DRTV is not limited by analytics, it is enhanced by them.

Data generation: Run a display campaign for a health and beauty product online and you’ll come away with information about the customer groups that were most interested and what content they’re consistently viewing. Customer data comes from digital marketing. Customer data comes from DRTV as well. We can show brands as much about their customers’ purchase and intent-to-purchase as an online campaign can show, often with as good or better response rate.

Traditional TV spots will continue to generate somewhat vague data on awareness and brand favorability. Nothing wrong with that. Emotional connection to a brand continues to be critical. Who doesn’t laugh at the E*Trade Baby spots? However, smart marketers will start to compare their TV creative and media execution toward more efficient goals. E*Trade is funny, but the Scottrade ads that encourage immediate investor action and a number and website to interact with are more effective. Both can have a place in media. But if ROI has moved to the front of your priorities, one deserves a bigger place in your budget.

William F. “Biff” Burns, Jr. is Senior Director, Corporate Direct Response for Mercury Media. Prior to joining the agency, Burns served as VP of Marketing at ContextWeb, Inc., a contextual media and technology company based in New York, where he helped to launch the ADSDAQ Exchange, the largest private contextual ad exchange in the marketplace. Burns also served as VP of Marketing for Burst Media, one of the first internet advertising networks, where he helped the company go public on the London Stock Exchange and developed three specific business units: Burst Network, Burst Direct and Burst Ad Conductor.

Contact him at


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3 Responses to “Not Your Father’s “Yell And Sell””

  1. Hipolito M. Wiseman Says:

    Good Post. Can you email me back, please. Awaiting your Answer.

  2. Kristian Mattias Says:

    Fine blog. I got a lot of effective info. I’ve been following this technology for awhile. It’s intriguing how it keeps changing, yet some of the core elements stay the same. Have you seen much change since Google made their most recent acquisition in the field?

  3. seo Says:

    Hi, great site. I look forward to your next post. Thank you, Julie

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