March 2005 - Per Inquiry

The Horror of “Wait…There’s More’

By Rick Petry

If you’ve been around the DRTV game a while, you know the odds of winning are long. You’ll hear claims of greater chances of success from some industry experts, but they always remind me of the following joke: a wife loses a hundred dollars gambling in a Vegas casino and her husband says, “What were you thinking?” In her defense, she retorts, “But you lost a thousand.” And the husband replies, “Yeah, but I know what I’m doing!” So how do you improve your odds of success? Forgive me for stating the obvious, but it all begins with the product. And not just any product-it has to be a product that can elicit excitement, even passion, and a product that is going to appeal to a sufficient number of consumers to warrant leveraging these mass mediums.

Yet somehow, to divine whether a product has this sort of appeal, its DRTV campaign, more often than not, becomes the primary consumer research tool that identifies whether there is a market for a given product or not. Is this a wise path? Well, if you are a packaged goods advertiser, bringing a new SKU to market, it could cost you upwards of $1 million, so a DRTV spot campaign costing a fraction of this amount to test the ballast of your product amid consumer waters might be an idea worth floating.

So why are so many allergic to research? Well, most entrepreneurs have a dream. They carry that dream around like a ticket to ride and proceed to get it validated by enough friends and family to embolden them to take it to the next level. Why conduct research when everyone at the Rotary Club said they’d buy two?

Besides, consumers can be pesky. And it’s no wonder-with media fragmentation, escalating airtime rates and consumers who have become conditioned by the practices of the industry to expect multiple bonus products, a payment dropped, free shipping and handling, etc.-the DRTV financial model requires margins akin to bottled water. Consumers will castigate these offer building practices, yet they still convey a sense of entitlement to them because that’s the happy place we have (de)evolved them to.

So how do we overcome this trap of our own devising? Indeed it does all come back to the product-an innovative, quality product that at its core delivers a unique benefit that renders meaningless all the hyperbole and contrivance that have become staples of DRTV offers. Thankfully there are entrepreneurs and inventors, who toil away in their garages and dens, and journey through Southeast Asia sourcing manufacturing, spinning dreams and creating jobs that feed coal into the belly of our industry and the global economy.

A recent study conducted by Euro RSCG Worldwide found that 67 percent of U.S. purchase decisions are influenced by word of mouth. It would appear loose lips buoy hits. Conversely, if a product fails to deliver on its promises, the ultimate backyard fence, known as the Internet, will leave marketers exposed-and perhaps burned by the bright light of truth. If we build the perfect beast, perhaps we can tear down the clichés that wall us in.

Rick Petry is president of agency services for Euro RSCG 4D DRTV, a full-service direct marketing agency based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].


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