April: A Taxing Month for DR Products


It’s an exciting time when one gets his or her first full-time, professional job. If it’s just after college or some years later, there is a sense of fulfillment and pride in knowing that you were able to reach this milestone. You set up your first desk with all-new supplies, start making new friends, take lunches and dinners more expensive than you could afford yourself, and work hard for that paycheck.


And what a glorious day it is when you do finally receive your first paycheck! The possibilities are endless. You can buy whatever you need or want, you think—and then you open the envelope and reality sets in. You’re an adult now, and between health insurance, a 401(k), and FICA, federal, and state taxes, you barely have enough cash left to pay for your commute, much less buy anything and everything you could hope for.


I remember my first job in the industry. I had been out of college for two months when I got a call to come work for a big agency, buying for various clients and taking them to expensive lunches. But balancing the pride in working for a living and all the money that’s withheld is always difficult. And in the world of direct response, it’s just as difficult—April carries with it the rush of tax time, which can be a nightmare when it comes to the life of your product.


Warmer weather doesn’t necessarily mean that viewerships will decrease.

The nightmare usually starts in March—and earlier this year, with all the tax changes and the influx of tax “experts” that flood the market as early as January. TurboTax and H&R Block are everywhere on the airwaves, telling customers how easily they can take care of their taxes, receive their returns quicker, and take advantage of informed tax professionals’ expertise. Since many tax solutions tell customers to go to their sites to read all about them, inventory in the direct response world dries up. To make matters worse, customers revert to a money-saving mode until the tax season ends, which results in lower response during the weeks leading up to the April 15 deadline.


In recent years, response has dipped as much as 45 percent to 55 percent on a weekly basis in the first and second weeks of April, when compared to the last few weeks in March. The biggest dip occurs on the 13th and 14th of April, when daily response can fall as low as 35 percent from the previous days. Response re-establishes itself once the tax scramble is over, and usually maintains steady levels as the month comes to a close.


Viewership, on the other hand, tends to show an upward trend. Network programming often uses the month of April to replay plotlines prior to the May sweeps, and cable broadcasters either introduce new seasons of popular shows or attempt to attract new viewers by running single-show marathons. CBS and the NCAA maintained a steady relationship through March Madness, but April usually sees the airing of the championship game on the first Monday of the month. The game is always one of the top-rated programs of the month, even beating American Idol the past two years. If you are in the market for at least a 7.0 rating with the 18–49 audience, the NCAA Championship game is the way to go.


Remember when television was only the “The Big Three” networks? TV was so much simpler back then. New shows aired through the end of January, when the networks made decisions about whether or not to continue them based on ratings. Once cable networks started airing original programming during the summer, however, the networks followed suit, airing shorter seasons of popular shows. Now, networks will premiere shows at any point in the season, regardless of their commitments or standing in the ratings.