October 2006 - Media Matters

The Power to Build Brands

By Dick Wechsler

I am a firm believer that DRTV builds brands. In fact, I know of no better way to profitably introduce and establish a new brand. Here are just a few well-known brands that bet and built their business with DRTV: Charles Schwab, Fidelity Investments, Vonage, Proactiv and GEICO. I am not contending that DRTV was the only marketing channel that contributed to these brand successes. Radio, direct mail, print advertising and the Internet all played significant roles. But ask any of the principals of these companies what got them to the Promised Land and I am pretty certain they will site DRTV as the single most important driving source.

I bring this up because of a meeting I recently had with a new client. The client has a successful web-based business, where you can purchase high-quality, brand-name items-everything from linens to cookware, shoes and jewelry-at significant savings. It’s a successful, profitable transaction-based business that wishes to expand beyond its Internet-only marketing campaign.

The client, the “creative agency” and I-the DR media agency-attended the meeting. The creative agency was to present its brand brief and several commercial concepts. Very quickly “The Battle of the Brand” vs. “The Need for Transaction” ensued. Here were the major points of debate:

Was the major objective of the campaign to build brand or to drive transaction? I contended that without transaction, the brand wouldn’t have a chance. “Furthermore,” I added, “Nothing builds lasting brand awareness as well as a successful transaction.”

What length should the commercials be? The creative agency assumed that the commercials would be 30 seconds in length. “Making the spots longer would lessen the impact of the concept,” they said. I explained that the spots needed to catch the viewers’ attention, introduce and explain the company, present its repertoire of offerings, and close with a meaningful call to action. “Content should define length. Length should not constrain content,” I said.

Now things started to get interesting.

The creative agency proposed six spots. Each spot would focus on one product category and “the collective body of work would define what the client was to the consumer,” said the creative agency.

I countered, “Each spot needs to provide a complete communication. That’s how advertising is consumed. You can’t assume that a viewer is going to see each creative execution and place them into a collective body of work. If that means that we can only have two 60-second spots, as opposed to six 30-second spots, so be it.”

In the end, the client agreed that transaction was the top priority and that content should determine length rather than visa versa. The point I want to drive home is there is no battle between DR and general advertising or brand vs. transaction. It’s only a question of complete, effective marketing communications developed to meet a client’s objectives.

Dick Wechsler is president and CEO of Lockard & Wechsler Direct, a direct response media agency in Irvington, N.Y. He can be reached at (914) 250-0250, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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