August 2008 - Channel Crossing: Branding

Changing Minds One
CMO at a Time

By Jim Bocci

Well, it happened again. A Fortune 500 client who came to us for a direct response branch of their business was honestly surprised at how well we managed their brand in the work we produced for them.

What was it they said? Oh, yeah, “You guys came up with fantastic creative and production-the spots look great! And you really nailed the brand messaging,” as if they’re surprised that we were able to come up with work that was on par with their brand agency.

Unfortunately, many brand companies exploring direct response as a viable element of their marketing mix probably are hanging on to some old, stereotyped images of DR that have reached the level of parody: yelling and selling steak knives, and telling viewers for the umpteenth time to “hurry and act now… but wait, there’s more!”

These perceptions have barely been discouraged by the company’s brand agencies that have traditionally looked down upon direct response as marketing’s version of a carney barker. Do a little Googling and you’ll easily dig up their rants against the DR industry in trade articles, blogs and interviews.

It’s funny how some of those same brand agencies are now even recommending direct response as a viable element of a campaign. Ironically, some have even tried their own DR hats on for size by simply pitching an 800 number or a URL.

My agency has created direct response campaigns for global corporations that have strategically built their brand to a level where it is a sacred thing: a Ming vase of trust, commitment, goodwill, fulfillment and service they have nurtured and grown over the lifetime of the product, the service or the organization.

Some clients approach DR agencies a bit warily at first. In our case, we are presented with reams of PowerPoint decks a hundred times thicker than the creative brief driving the campaign, meticulously defining their brand in terms of its tone, voice, color, emotion, personality, heritage and graphic-style parameters. We immerse ourselves in all of this before we even begin conceptualizing the campaign.

After the campaign is up and running, these clients will often approach us somewhat apologetically. They’ll say, “when we started working with you, we were apprehensive about the level of creative and production value not being on par with the work of our brand agency.” We’ve even had clients admit that the work we’ve done for them is more brand-centric than what they’re getting from their agency of record.

That’s fine. DR agencies will keep winning over corporate CMOs campaign-by-campaign. It’s because these specialized firms produce campaigns that look great, are consistent with brand-and sell. Oh, and by the way, DR agencies will also tell you that your spot ran yesterday on such-and-such network and generated this many leads and converted this many sales-let’s see a traditional brand campaign do that!

Jim Bocci is creative director of R2C Group, a full-service DRTV agency based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at (503) 276-4094, or via
e-mail at
[email protected].


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