Rewind to 1990. The Hubble Space Telescope launches into orbit. Phil Collins hits the charts with Another Day in Paradise. And Tim Hawthorne, my father and founder of Hawthorne Direct, unveils his innovative Power of the Half Hour slideshow to advertising executives, introducing concepts such as cost-per-order (CPO), cost-per-lead (CPL), and media efficiency ratio (MER). All are familiar to today’s direct response marketers, but at that time, they were completely foreign to his audience.
Hawthorne beat the drum of advertising accountability—something unheard-of in the advertising world of 25 years ago. DR itself was lawless at the time, and after working on documentaries as a producer, writer, and director, Hawthorne helped create an entirely new, measurable marketing channel—the infomercial—based on compelling storytelling.
Hawthorne launched Hawthorne Direct in 1985. His first project? Producing a 60-minute infomercial for personal finance expert Ed Beckley. With just a $15,000 budget, it became the fourth long-form to air in the modern era; it dominated the airwaves and grossed more than $60 million in sales in 15 months.
A founding member of the National Infomercial Marketing Association (NIMA, later ERA) alongside industry pioneers such as Jeff Knowles and Greg Renker, Hawthorne helped legitimatize and validate an industry that today serves marketers from the solo inventor to the huge brand advertiser.
We are not strangers to the supposedly new world of data analytics and attribution.
As we look ahead to the next 25 years, DR is poised for great success. Focused on tracking, collecting, and analyzing data in meaningful and useful ways, producers, media agencies, and marketers learned long ago to parlay even the most obscure data points into actionable results. The ability to track performance, review results, and use the information to make critical, forward-thinking decisions puts DR agencies in a league of their own. We are not strangers to the supposedly new world of data analytics and attribution; DR has used A/B testing, upsells, and other methods to shape campaign success for decades.
Over time, these attributes began to blend well with CMOs’ increased interest in advertising accountability—the very concept that Hawthorne has promoted for the past 25 years. Direct marketing’s accountability factor has already proven successful for global brands such as 3M, Procter & Gamble, Bose, and Mercedes-Benz, to name a few. With digital and mobile advertising, social media, and other emerging approaches, DR is poised to further leverage big data, analytics, and metrics to create successful integrated campaigns.
As DR agencies evolve, the intersection of creative and analytics will be an unbeatable force—one that smart marketers will continue to tap into over the next 25 years or more. At its core, advertising is about finding new ways to engage consumers and serve up messages in ways they wish to receive information, whether that’s via mobile, social, TV, radio, or print. Hawthorne Direct is proud to have been part of DR’s pioneering years, and excited to be a part of its future. For direct marketers in the digital age, the opportunities ahead are limitless. One could say it’s another day in paradise.