June 2007 - Per Inquiry

The Good Old Days

By Rick Petry

There is a rumble that sounds more like a grumble heard ’round the industry and it sounds like this: things aren’t what they used to be. The results of DRTV stalwarts have eroded and it is difficult to find new winners. The tried-and-true direct-to-consumer pitch that relied on DRTV as a means of measuring pure response is on its way to extinction. The culprits responsible for this bloodbath include media fragmentation, commercial-skipping technology and a dearth of innovative products.

But perhaps the biggest factor impacting those juicy media efficiency ratios of yore is the Internet. With the Web now representing half or more of total direct sales, our ability to measure and optimize media effectiveness-DR’s essential promise-is being sorely tested.

It’s easy to forget just how much change the Web has ushered in over the past decade. A few years ago, a client who ran the marketing of a successful company that relied on DRTV for its bread and butter commented that, while Internet sales represented about 10 percent of overall revenues, he didn’t think it would ever be “a really big deal.” Before you scoff, let me just say that since then he “retired” with a purported $20 million and was last seen pursuing opportunity of a two-legged kind in a mustard-colored sports car.

Maybe he just had the wisdom to know when to get out. Which brings up an interesting question: has the wealth of our first generation of pioneers created complacency? Or, put another way, do we have the fortitude to reinvent ourselves?

As ERA expands from its DRTV roots, that really is the question of the moment. There will be those who suggest the organization has lost its way, but if we fail to evolve to reflect our consumers’ buying behavior, don’t we risk going the way of the exponential sales-to-media ratio that today is but a misty memory? Think of it this way: if you can remember when you were a kid and you had a term paper deadline looming before the advent of the Internet, you probably recall the dusty World Book Encyclopedia some door-to-door Willy Loman peddled your folks as the primary source material you cracked open the weekend before the thing was due on Monday.

Today, that’s as hard to imagine as it is for me to realize that such “we had to walk two miles uphill in the snow to get to school” references mean that I have become my father. But there’s a greater truth: despite the challenges that surround us, this is, as Psychology of Winning author Dr. Denis Waitley has stated, “…the best time to have ever been alive in history. It’s the first time we’ve ever had the power to gain knowledge at our fingertips.”

That’s a perspective worth considering. For, as singer Carly Simon, a recent convert to the power of DRTV to drive sales of her CDs through multiple channels has opined, “These are the good old days.”

Rick Petry is a freelance writer and consultant to the direct marketing industry and the current chairman of ERA’s board of directors. He can be contacted at (503)740-9065, or via e-mail at [email protected].


No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment