Building Your Brand through DRTV


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By: Michael Goodman, Senior Director of Analytics, Mercury Media Boston

Branding is not typically associated with direct response agencies, but it should be as all advertising, including direct response, impacts the brand. The challenge is leaving the right impression and doing so on purpose.

Traditional agencies and direct response agencies go about achieving this differently. Traditional agencies want to raise awareness about a product or service and create positive feelings such as “this brand understands you” or “our brand’s cool, if you use it you will be to.” Direct response agencies believe consumers respond when products and services are relevant to them. If an ad doesn’t communicate a product or service’s benefit, then the consumer has little reason to respond.

The reality is that both approaches are correct. Not all ad campaigns have hard sales objectives. Sometimes the objective is to change an advertiser’s image, effect a behavioral change, or make people like a company. Other times, the objective is solely to make the cash registers ring. Often time ad campaigns have multiple objectives.

Traditional advertising seeks to create awareness and positive feelings toward a product or service in enough minds so some of them will eventually purchase it. Direct response advertising improves on this. Direct response advertising influences everyone that views the ad (e.g., branding), while simultaneously driving responses.

Advertisers who want to utilize DRTV to build their brand should follow these simple rules:

  • Focus on the objective. Whether it is branding, response or a combination of both, every campaign must have clearly defined objectives. It is these objectives that dictate how you proceed (e.g., what networks and dayparts you air on; how you buy; and what your creative looks like).
  • Have patience. When adding a branding component to a direct response campaign patience is required. The response component of the campaign will yield results in a fairly short period of time. Depending on the sales cycle, you will generally know in 30 to 60 days if a direct response campaign is successful (e.g., generating sales). In contrast, consumers need years of consistency in order for branding to take hold.
  • Buy both fixed and pre-emptable spots. In an effort to control cost DRTV campaigns typically buy on a remnant basis, subject to pre-emption, in secondary dayparts with less emphasis on brand-friendly dayparts. To make these spots more brand friendly they should be placed in both fixed and pre-emptable spots with an emphasis on both primary and secondary dayparts.
  • Combine dayparts, networks, and shows. Knowing what you want to achieve makes it easier to plan a media strategy that will yield the desired results. While networks, shows, and dayparts that have strong ratings tend to be good places for brand advertisements they are often poor candidates for direct response campaigns. These viewers are less likely to break away from their favorite show to call an 800 number or visit a website. Hybrid campaigns, which combine branding and response, need to utilize a mixture of highly rated programs with programs that yield responses.
  • Mix longer and shorter spots. DRTV spots are typically longer (60, 90 and 120 seconds), promote a product or services benefits, and have a strong call-to-action. To make these spots more brand friendly add-in shorter spots (30 seconds) with less messaging and a simpler call-to-action.
  • Don’t over promise. While technically, this is not the responsibility of your advertising, it is critical to any advertisers’ ultimate success. DRTV can effectively communicate a product or services unique selling proposition but it is incumbent upon the advertiser to meet these expectations. Consumers buy from brands that consistently meet expectations. Trust, however, is a tricky thing, it has to be built, and is easily broken.
  • Communicate the benefits. Consumers’ buy those products that are relevant to them. It is up to the advertising to communicate this relevancy. This is done by developing a unique selling proposition for the product or service and highlighting it in the advertising.
  • Make the product or service the hero. Too often advertising focuses on the wrong hero, the actors, clever writing, art direction, or a movie-like experience, rather than focusing on the real hero – the product or service. For example, a celebrity might make it easier to generate recognition through association but advertisers must keep in mind the celebrity’s goal is to build their brand. At the end of the day, marketers will always be better served making their company and product the hero.

Contact him at mgoodman@MercuryMedia.com

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