September 2006 - Media Matters

Selecting Short-Form Test Media: What Really Matters?

By Dave Savage

In the April issue, I discussed the variables to consider when selecting the specific media for an infomercial media test. But what of testing short-form media (:30s, :60s and :120s)?

It’s best to start by considering what the short-form test itself is designed to accomplish. In most cases, marketers have multiple goals in mind. For this reason, testing in phases can be useful. In order to better understand the numbers and financials that will drive a campaign, and ultimately maximize the marketer’s ROI and/or awareness, the following factors need to be determined and evaluated during the first phase of a test:

  • Whether the creative and/or the product offer generates enough leads and/or orders to justify an eventual rollout of a DR campaign
  • The percentage of leads converted to orders at the call center and/or website
  • The average sale and/or value of customer

If the marketer is national in scope, the factors above can be addressed in a one- to two-week time frame at a reasonable budget. If the advertiser has specific local and/or regional goals, those can be addressed within the test as well.

Once the initial testing phase is completed, a marketer can continue testing and further evaluate the following:

  • Different types of media (national cable, local broadcast, satellite, syndicated programming)
  • Different daypart rotations (overnights, early mornings, daytime, primetime and late fringe)

With these factors in mind, there are many issues to consider when selecting the right media for a short-form media test:

Consider your product’s target demographic. Unlike infomercial viewing, which is mostly accidental, short-form spots are typically seen because the viewer is tuned into a particular network or program. Knowing the typical gender, age and income of your potential customer helps to target the kind of media that you can select for your test. Short-form marketers and media buyers can select specific daypart rotations on specific networks or programs that are aimed at certain types of viewers and know that this media will reach these consumers, because of research verified by Nielsen. Products in the beauty and weight-loss categories might do well on certain female-oriented networks, while products in the business opportunity and financial services categories might be better targeted at male-skewing networks.

Having said this, demographics are less important in overnight rotations, because although viewership is smaller than in other dayparts, rates tend to be very attractive relative to the response generated.

Consider the length of your spot and the number of offers you want to test. Some in the industry believe that a :120 spot should be tested before a :60 spot, because if a :120 for your product doesn’t work, a :60 certainly won’t. Still, unlike infomercial programming, DR short form is highly pre-emptible and clearance is based on fluctuating inventory and rates at each media outlet. With this in mind, creating and testing both lengths is a prudent call for most marketers, mostly because it provides for flexibility, as some networks and stations don’t make :120 spots available, or they can be very hard to clear in large volumes at certain times of the year.

If a marketer does have a variety of lengths, perhaps even a :30, he or she needs to budget an appropriate amount of media for each length to make sure the testing is valid. Likewise, if a variety of offers are being tested (maybe two different prices, or perhaps a straight price point versus a soft offer), the timing and budget levels for each test needs to be planned out carefully.

Consider the time of year during which you are conducting testing. Inventory and rates can fluctuate greatly, depending on the time of year. For instance, first-quarter inventory and rates are generally much more welcoming than fourth-quarter inventory and rates for a short-form DR marketer. Some networks provide better efficiencies at certain times of the year. For instance, The Weather Channel might be a better buy in the winter because of increased viewership.

Certain networks will be less affordable and available in the fourth quarter, when major marketers and retailers are gobbling up inventory. No matter when you test, know the relative strength of the marketplace so that you might evaluate your test results.

Consider the product category and recent competitive history, as well as media results across all categories. A marketer’s media buying agency should be able to reference its database for proven network or syndicated programming performers in your product category, and across all categories.

No matter what the product category, analysis of the buying patterns of competitive products within the category will guide you to potential media to place on the test. If a competitor is faring well in certain markets or on certain networks and programs, you should capitalize on this media experience. When performing this analysis, be aware of the objectives of your competitor, as this affects the media being purchased. A marketer more concerned with retail sales compared to front-end DR profitability may be purchasing more costly rotations with greater viewership than a marketer who needs the short-form spots to pay out. You will need to select the media that makes the most sense in fulfilling your objectives, not your competitor’s.

Furthermore, if a certain network or program has produced good results for products in your category, check to see if that same media has generated good results for campaigns in other categories, too. Selecting media that does well for many or all products should help limit poor results on the media that is ultimately selected.

Finally, there are certain products that are targeted at niche markets, and history has shown that they perform best in media, where the demographics match the niche audience. For example, golf products do well on The Golf Channel, regional sports channels and before and after golf programming. Kids crafting products do best on networks and programs targeted at children, such as Nickelodeon. Christian-based products do well on religious networks and programming. Once media is expanded beyond those core networks and programs, good results can be limited.

Consider your overall budget. Marketers should set aside a budget of anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000, depending on testing objectives, as multiple lengths, creative and offers will likely need to be evaluated over a period of time-sometimes, many weeks or even months. Still, testing to gain an initial read on one specific offer or creative can be accomplished for significantly less than $50,000, depending on the marketer’s budget. A relatively lower budget will mean that the number of networks, stations, markets and dayparts will be more limited and understanding of the offer or creative’s potential less complete.

Your media buyer should create a short-form DR test for you that takes these considerations into account, and if this is done, the marketer can be confident that his or her media testing will have been effective in gauging the relative strength of his or her offering.

David Savage is executive vice president and managing partner at Cmedia. He can be reached at (610) 968-6611, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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