The 2017 D2C Convention got off to a somber start. With the south end of the Strip still on lockdown following the mass shooting on Sunday, Oct. 1, the slot machines at the sparsely populated McCarran Airport were muted, lending showgoers an unusually eerie entrance to Sin City. Hotels took special precautions in the aftermath of the attack, searching bags and wanding patrons at every entrance.
Attending an event at the Mandalay Bay, longtime pitchperson Forbes Riley watched the tragedy unfold, having stepped out on the terrace to take a picture of the Strip just as the shooter opened fire from the 32nd floor below. “It was beyond scary,” she says. “We didn’t know what was happening.”
Riley and other direct response professionals, including Kevin Harrington and Tristar CEO Keith Mirchandani, spent the night inside Mandalay Bay as the details of the mass slaying emerged. “It was beyond horrific,” Riley says. “Your mind just hurts. You’re not supposed to see that kind of thing in real life.”
Starting With Sessions
While D2C had a handful of cancellations, it was business as usual for direct response inside the Wynn Las Vegas on Tuesday.
The show launched with a day of education. Frank Kern led with a discussion of his Behavioral Dynamic Response methodology, which customizes online offers to prospects based on behavior. “You guys are unbelievably good at accessing customers,” Kern says. “But from what I’ve seen, there’s not a lot of online presence. You have to take those prospects and make them raving fans and repeat buyers.”
The more offers you make, the more orders you get, he noted, but make too many offers and you’ll undermine goodwill. To avoid wearing out your welcome, marketers must create conversations with “radical transparency.” “Show prospects the light at the end of the tunnel,” Kern says. “Give them the emotional triggers that make them buy. The general public likes marketers less than politicians. All we have to do is not act like typical marketers.”
A keynote luncheon followed, featuring a discussion of the growing role of “connected” television in today’s media marketplace. Already, 64 percent of U.S. households own a connected TV, and by 2021, two of every five hours watched daily will be streamed.
“This is not in the beginning stages; it is very much in the late-mainstream stages,” says Jed Dederick, regional vice president of business development for The Trade Desk, a demand-side advertising platform. “You are missing out on a huge group of consumers if you are buying only broadcast TV.”
Entrepreneur and author Dean Graziosi led an afternoon session building upon the concepts he presented at ERA’s Great Ideas Summit earlier this year. He outlined nine attributes that make him a great dad—making his children feel understood, being authentic and enthusiastic, rewarding good behavior unexpectedly, and so on. Graziosi then noted that the same attributes make him a great marketer.
“Care for your customers like they’re your kids, and you will reach levels you never imagined,” he says. “If you love your product, understand how [prospects] feel. When I fell in love with what I offer, I felt ethically obligated to get them enrolled. I threw the teleprompters away; I threw the script away. My sales went through the roof. Nothing sells like enthusiasm.”
Learning From the Legends
On Wednesday, the show floor opened, attracting attendees with dozens of exhibitors and the annual INPEX/InventHelp New Product Showcase. Sessions kicked off with a panel discussion on approaches that use innovative public relations and social media strategies to produce ROI, moderated by Ava Seavey, queen bee of Avalanche Creative Services.
Social media can provide the first steps in building a brand, but without innovation, “you become a ‘me-too,’” says Lindsey Carnett, CEO and president of the public relations firm Marketing Maven. “What is going to get people talking? Do some research, see what some of the trends are, and figure out who your target is. Then work backward to make sure your marketing can go against the grain.”
Be prepared with internet and mobile-friendly content like Tasty’s ubiquitous meal-prep videos, notes Collette Liantonio, president of Concepts TV Productions. “Having an internet strategy is fabulous, but it is still the Wild West,” she says. “Choose content accordingly, and don’t make it an afterthought.”
Paying social media “influencers” is another issue on the frontier. There is no established pricing structure, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is monitoring material connections. Marketers prefer to buy into a plan, says Jennifer DeMarco, general counsel of Allstar Products Group: “We say, ‘This is what we have, and it has to include Facebook, social media influencers, and whatever else.’ ”
On Wednesday afternoon, the highly anticipated “Legends” panel invited TeleBrands founder and CEO A.J. Khubani and Guthy-Renker co-founder/co-chair Greg Renker to discuss their careers with moderator and pitchman Anthony Sullivan.
The entrepreneurs followed very different strategies to grow their companies; TeleBrands favors short-form ads. “We figured out that the back end was retail distribution,” Khubani says.
Meanwhile, Guthy-Renker uses mostly long-forms, often with celebrity endorsers. “We went down that road because it is what we knew,” Renker says.
Both agreed that it’s important to know what you don’t know. “When we develop something, we think we know what we’re doing, and we’re mostly wrong,” Renker says. “After 30-plus years, we can try to figure out the next winner based on our experience, and we are mostly wrong,” Khubani notes.
Risk tolerance is a big factor in the legends’ success. According to Renker, it isn’t unusual for a brand to lose $500,000 a week before becoming a moneymaker. “Our hit ratio is about one in 10,” Khubani adds. “It can take you a good six months to start to recoup the money. If you’re an amateur skydiver, your risk is higher, but if you’re a professional skydiver, the risk is much lower.”
Renker—who helped form ERA as the National Infomercial Marketers Association (NIMA) in 1990, after helping head off a congressional inquiry into DR marketing—stressed the need for regulatory compliance. “We are 100 percent committed to complying, and we are not going to make a mistake,” he says.
Finally, a panel of regulatory experts moderated by Peter Marinello, director of the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP), discussed recent state and federal actions targeting negative-option offers and questioning advertising claims. “The big issues on the front end continue to be the ‘hardy perennials,’” says Ed Glynn, partner at Locke Lord. “Is what you say about the product or service truthful, and can you prove it is truthful?”
Affiliates can unwittingly introduce problematic claims. “You do have to think about front-end relationships,” says Ellen Berge, partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Venable LLP. “It’s not just what you say, but it’s what they are saying, too.”
“Have someone in your company who does nothing but look at the affiliate websites,” Glynn says. “If you don’t have that kind of oversight, you get complaints, [and] if you get enough complaints, someone is going to ask if you were aware of what they were saying, and did you do anything to police it.”
“You can work as diligently as you want on your checkout page, but if your ad said, ‘free, free, free,’ it won’t mean much to [the FTC], because consumers will have ‘free’ on the mind when they get there,” adds Linda Goldstein, partner at BakerHostetler LLP. “The FTC will ask to see everything that has gone on social media, and that could be problematic.”
Enthusiasm was in the air at the sold-out Moxie Awards Gala on Tuesday evening. Spotlighting the best campaigns of the year, almost 30 winners were named, including traditional short- and long-form ads, digital executions, and social media campaigns.
Special awards went to entrepreneur Brandon Lewis of Response.com, who was named Volunteer of the Year for his assistance in securing speakers for ERA programs and his ongoing support of ERSP. With recent megahits including Star Shower and Red Copper Cookware, TeleBrands accepted the honor of Marketer of the Year.
Maria Kennedy, senior vice president of Discovery Communications, took ERA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing her longtime leadership in paid programming and direct response. DRTV is “adaptable” advertising, she says. “We have survived and thrived in a changing landscape. We always find a new path to profitability, in spite of the challenges.”
Bill Guthy and Greg Renker of Guthy-Renker accepted ERA’s new Diamond Legend Award, created to recognize those who have made unparalleled contributions to DR. “Bill Guthy and Greg Renker have played a pivotal role in defining the industry, and the company’s unparalleled support of ERA has helped make our association a vital voice,” says Poonam Khubani, ERA’s immediate past chair and vice president of TeleBrands.
Guthy-Renker has now innovated for 30 years, building lasting brands. “They did nothing short of transforming the direct response marketing industry,” says television personality Leeza Gibbons, who presented the award. “Two focused, fearless friends created a business that launched more products and more opportunities than [they] could have ever imagined. They had vision; they had guts; they did not have a silver spoon.”
“It was 30 years ago this month when Bill and I first aired Think and Grow Rich,” Renker says. “At the same time, the stock market experienced its biggest single drop in history. We were challenged. Today, we feel just as uncertain. I think all of us in this room love this industry because we don’t know what’s coming next. But we have so much hope that what we’re onto is going to be big.”
Guthy thanked the company’s many partners, including Think and Grow Rich author Napoleon Hill, Tony Robbins, Cindy Crawford, Chaz Dean, and others. “But even with that group of collaborators, you can’t succeed without the unbelievable hard work, detailed attention, and focus of a great tribe of teammates,” he says. “We could not have succeeded without their 30 years of ongoing effort.
“We’ve survived 30 years of ups and downs in business together,” Guthy says of his business partner. “Hopefully, we’ll be back here in 20 years to celebrate our 50th.”
So Much Winning
Winners of the 2017 Moxie Awards
Marketer of the Year
Volunteer of the Year
Brandon Lewis, Response.com
Lifetime Achievement Award
Maria Kennedy, Discovery Communications
Diamond Legend Award
Best Short Form of the Year, Variety
Pocket Hose Brass Bullet (Marketer: TeleBrands; Producer: Kerrmercials; Agency: Lockard & Wechsler)
Best Long Form of the Year, Variety
Gwynnie Bee(Marketer: Gwynnie Bee, Inc.; Producer: Script to Screen, LLC; Agency: Havas Edge)
Best Short Form of the Year, Housewares
Red Copper Square Pan (Marketer: TeleBrands; Producer: Schwartz Group; Agency: Lockard & Wechsler)
Best Long Form of the Year, Housewares
Hurricane Spin Scrubber(Marketer: TeleBrands; Producer: Cole Media; Agency: Lockard & Wechsler)
Best Financial Services Show of the Year/Long or Short Form
Medicare Advantage(Marketer: THOR Associates; Producer: Bluewater Media)
Best Exercise and Fitness Show of the Year/Long or Short Form
PiYo Beachbody (Marketer: Beachbody; Producer: Dragonfly Productions; Contributing Partner: Team Johnson)
Best Health or Weight Loss Show of the Year/Long or Short Form
Invia “Think Clearly”(Marketer: Memory Sciences; Producer: Envision Response; Agency: Cannella Response Television)
Best Short Form of the Year, Brand Response
Nutrisystem, “Put Down the Pie”(Marketer: Nutrisystem; Producer: Sullivan Productions)
Best Long Form of the Year, Brand Response
Shark Rocket DuoClean(Marketer: SharkNinja; Producer: SharkNinja; Agency: MSI)
Best Children’s Product Show of the Year/Long or Short Form
Easy Einstein Balloons(Marketer: TeleBrands; Producer: Schwartz Group; Media Agency: Lockard & Wechsler)
Best Digital Marketing Campaign of the Year
Meaningful Beauty 5.75(Marketer: Guthy-Renker, LLC; Producer: Guthy-Renker, LLC)
Best Direct Response Website Design of the Year
Volaire(Marketer: Junee Brands; Producer: Launch DRTV; Agency: Havas and Logical Positions; Contributing Partner: Conversion Systems)
Best Social Media Campaign of the Year
“Start Here” by Beachbody(Marketer: Beachbody UK, LLC)
Best Short Form of the Year, Beauty
ProactivMD(Marketer: The Proactiv Company, LLC)
Best Long Form of the Year, Beauty
Meaningful Beauty 5.75(Marketer: Guthy-Renker, LLC; Producer: Lieberman Productions)
Best International Direct Response TV Show of the Year/Long or Short Form
The Proactiv Company Japan(Marketer: The Proactiv Company Japan; Producer: C2K Production)
Best U.S. Hispanic Direct Response TV Show of the Year/Long or Short Form
Meaningful Beauty 5 v.6 Hispanic(Marketer: Guthy-Renker, LLC; Producer: LD3 Productions; Contributing Partner: Lieberman Productions)
Best Pro Bono Show of the Year/Long or Short Form
The Arc(Marketer: TeleBrands; Producer: Sullivan Productions)
Best Short Form of the Year, Traditional Direct Response
ProactivMD(Marketer: The Proactiv Company, LLC)
Best Long Form of the Year, Traditional Direct Response
Star Shower Motion(Marketer: TeleBrands; Producer: Cole Media; Agency: Lockard & Wechsler)
Best Product of the Year
Shark Rocket DuoClean(Marketer: SharkNinja; Producer: SharkNinja; Agency: MSI)
Best Female Presenter of the Year/Non-Celebrity
Chalene Johnson, PiYo Sequel(Marketer: Beachbody.com; Producer: Dragonfly Productions/Andrea Ambandos; Contributing Partner: Team Johnson)
Best Male Presenter of the Year/Non-Celebrity
Anthony Sullivan, Sullivan Productions
Best Celebrity Presenter of the Year
Kristin Davis, Volaire(Marketer: Junee Brands; Producer: Launch DRTV; Agency: Havas)
Best Product Expert of the Year
Hunter Ellis, Atomic Beam USA Flashlight(Producer: Sullivan Productions)
Best Short Form of the Year, People’s Choice
Metal Garden Hose(Marketer: Harvest Direct; Producer: Yeiser Research and Development; Agency: Chief Media)
Best Long Form of the Year, People’s Choice
American Bad Ass Grill(Marketer: Direct Holdings Global; Lifestyle Products Group; Producer: Bluewater Media; Contributing Partner: Zahalo)