How DR Is Done

ERA’s 2015 D2C Convention took a loving look at direct response’s first 25 years of success, while fearlessly forging a path to the future.


As the lights went down on the Moxie Awards Gala last month inside the Wynn Las Vegas, ERA’s 2015 D2C Convention came to a happy close. In 24/7 Las Vegas, of course, show attendees were free to continue networking, making deals, and sharing memories—and many did so into the wee hours. And this and other ERA shows going back 25 years were the catalysts behind those connections. 

The 2015 ERA D2C Convention took a hard look at the issues facing direct response marketers today. But while these topics are crucial to address and ERA is helping meet them head-on, the show was about more than sales, strategies, media, measurement, conversions, and ROI. “This week is about celebration,” said Julie Coons, ERA’s president and CEO.

The association has now supported a very specialized, tight-knit community of DRTV practitioners for 25 years, and this year’s show rewarded the industry with permission to give itself a high-five. ERA heralded many of its members’ biggest successes at the show and humbly accepted kudos for a job well done, while looking ahead to future successes with an optimistic, can-do spirit.

Education First
Before the show’s official start, ERA held an exclusive half-day workshop for DR marketers with SciMark Corp.’s Jordan Pine, “What Every DRTV Professional Should Know.” Shattering myths about short-forms, the workshop was an education for all DR experience levels. See “Hit & Miss” on page 24 for more details.

D2C education launched on Tuesday, Oct. 6, with a selection of Masters Series sessions designed to help attendees rise to the challenges of the digital age, covering attribution, media convergence, and other topics. Perennial favorite DR 101 was divided into Parts 1 (“Offline: Concept to Completion”) and 2 (“Online: Your Direct Response E-Commerce and Digital Strategy”) to better address what it takes to succeed on television, radio, and the new media.

Tuesday morning sessions also included “Convergence of Short-Form DRTV & Digital,” which addressed data measurement in an omnichannel environment. Panelists agreed that whether video appears on Vine, YouTube, or traditional TV, “the only thing that matters is what moves the needle,” MobileHelp’s Jeff Hilton said.

Afternoon sessions included an examination of programmatic buying, which can help marketers expand their reach into different channels. “Media buying patterns have changed,” said Christina Garduno, chief media strategist for Dallas-based Koeppel Direct. “But if you are buying programmatically, you are looking for those audiences and aggregating the different sources instead of keeping them siloed.”

Also on Monday, Calum Smeaton (TVSquared, Inc.) and Sean Muller (iSpot.tv ) talked about “Building a Better Model for Attribution.” The companies have partnered to bring real-time, digital-style attribution to TV. “The challenge we see is analysis paralysis—people get so much data that they are scared to make changes,” Smeaton said. “If you can look at what’s happening instantly, you can test to see if something works. Then you get more comfortable with making changes.”

Closing out the first day of the show was ERA’s 25th Anniversary Party at the Encore’s Surrender nightclub, sponsored by TeleBrands. A who’s who of DR denizens met and mingled poolside as a sizzle reel spanning nearly three decades of short-forms played on the bigscreens above.

Television personality and Guthy-Renker spokesperson Leeza Gibbons accepted ERA’s DR Icon Award.

Taking It to the Floor
On Wednesday, the D2C Convention’s exhibit halls opened; more than 100 companies appeared on the floor, inside the InventHelp/INPEX New Product Showcase, and in the Women in Business Pavilion. Educational sessions also moved to the show floor, with the Masters Series occupying the glass-walled Think Tank, and Lightning sessions appearing in the D2C Learning Lounge.

Morning sessions included a case study of the Woof Washer 360, the first viral phenomenon to come from DR. The dog-washing hose attachment has generated 65 million views since appearing almost by accident on Facebook, and has since has been acquired for distribution by TeleBrands. “You can’t force something to be viral,” said Phil Rarick, COO of Los Angeles-based public relations agency Marketing Maven, but the Woof Washer had “the kind of creative assets you need.”

A catered keynote presentation sponsored by Quigley-Simpson, “Go Beyond the TV Screen: Using Mobile Technology to Reach More Consumers,” featured Shazam senior vice president Peter Szabo. Shazam has been able to extend its capabilities beyond identifying music to help shoppers connect and interact with brands such as Coke Zero, Jaguar, and Old Navy instantly via mobile. The key to these campaigns’ success was that they were able to shepherd people into an omnichannel experience, Szabo said. “Take all of the environments and insert yourself at the right time.”

After lunch, a session entitled, “Leveraging Social Media to Maximize Direct Sales” discussed platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, and how DR marketers can use them. “Consumers will convert however they feel is best,” noted Shail Prasad, vice president of marketing for TeleBrands.

About 30 inventor hopefuls appeared onstage Wednesday afternoon to deliver two-minute product pitches as part of InventHelp/INPEX’ annual competition, offering everything from a spring-loaded ab-workout appliance to a customization kit for women’s shoes. Show attendees then rang out the evening decked out in their finest summer duds at a White Party sponsored by Thane Direct.

Social and Socializing
Getting social was still on showgoers’ minds on Thursday morning at SocialCentiv’s presentation on using hypertargeted tweets and other social media tools to generate new leads and conversions. “You can’t let your social media go out there without context, especially as you target offers,” said Bernard Perrine, CEO. “Engagement brings them in.”

The show featured a second keynote session on Thursday in honor of ERA’s 25th Anniversary. “The Legends of Direct Response”—namely, A.J. Khubani, TeleBrands; Jack Kirby, Havas Edge; Richard Stacey, Northern Response (International); and Katie Williams, Ideal Living—appeared on a panel moderated by fellow legend Collette Liantonio, president of Boonton, N.J.-based Concepts TV Productions.

With a combined 177 years of experience, the group addressed topics such as digital conversion, international success, the legacy and cultural importance of DR, and their secrets to success.

Dish author Rick Petry was named ERA’s Volunteer of the Year.

Participants agreed that while media is fragmenting, the challenges DR faces today are surmountable. “If DRTV is dead, why did DraftKings spend $16 million on TV last week?” asked Katie Williams. “The incredible power of selling products via video is not going to go away.” Kirby agreed, adding that DRTV professionals only need to redefine themselves as content creators to suit a digital audience. “Content will be consumed on whatever device the consumer decides,” he said. “In five years, we will still be creating content—and we will still be selling them stuff.”

Additional sessions on Thursday included “Using Digital to Make the Cash Register Ring,” which focused on meeting customers on whatever device they choose with the right message. While marketers should be careful to avoid the “creepiness” factor that comes with aggressive retargeting across devices, “the Holy Grail is using your data to drive more sales,” said Adam Meshekow, executive vice president of Product Strategy and National Sales for SITO Mobile.

Elsewhere on the show floor, Brian Wheeler of NTI Products in Reno, Nev., took the InventHelp/INPEX Inventor of the Year Award following a Pitch By the Pros touting the five finalists’ inventions. His LevelHanger picture-hanging device allows users to install a picture once without worrying that it’s going to be crooked. “I think this will be a great launch point for us,” Wheeler said. “To have this response and notoriety is going to give us the steam we need to move ahead.”

Level Hangers was the winning entry in InventHelp/INPEX’ annual New Product Showcase.

Maximum Moxie
The Moxie Awards closed the show with a two-and-a-half hour gala and banquet, punctuated by on-the-spot Winner’s Circle interviews with Craig Burnett. “All this week we’ve been celebrating ERA’s 25th Anniversary,” said incoming chairman Greg Sater, “and tonight we’re going to celebrate the success of everyone in this room. We’re going to honor the best, and the brightest, and the newest additions to the industry.”

The first award went to an “in-FUR-mercial” promoting pet
adoption from R&R Partners, the agency behind the “What Happens in Vegas” campaign. Winners included Tristar Products, for promotion of the Jack LaLanne documentary Anything Is Possible. SharkNinja (formerly Euro-Pro) took Marketer of the Year.

DNA Response CEO Ranjit Mulgaonkar won the inaugural Mercury Wing Award, recognizing up-and-coming DR marketers and support businesses. “Receiving the Mercury Wing Award is a great honor,” Mulgaonkar said. “I want to thank all of my customers and my partners, who encourage us to develop new technologies. We will work hard to make a positive impact on our customers’ businesses and continue to share our experiences and expertise with the direct response industry.”

The DR Icon Award went to television personality, entrepreneur, and author Leeza Gibbons, who has helped generate more than $1 billion in sales for Guthy-Renker’s beauty brands over time. Thanking ERA for the award, Gibbons said, “If I can be a symbol for something, I hope it can be gratitude and optimism. I’m feeling plenty of gratitude and optimism as I stand here in front of these extraordinary, passionate, and talented people tonight.”

Former ERA chairman and author Rick Petry won the 2015 ERA Volunteer of the Year Award for his tireless contributions to the association. Petry spoke about his enthusiasm for penning the Dish column for ER and finding out from readers that he has made an impact. “That encouragement, my friends, is like waking up Monday morning and finding out you have an MER of 10 to 1,” he quipped. “With 100 percent upsells. And no chargebacks. And your partner hasn’t sued you. Yet. Thanks for being out there. I am grateful.”

TeleBrands CEO A.J. Khubani then stepped up to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award, ERA’s most prestigious. “This is an incredible honor,” he said, thanking the consumers, partners, distributors, inventors, lawyers, and others who have contributed to TeleBrands’ success over the years. “Most of all, I’d like to thank the brilliant, beautiful, and charming Poonam Khubani. Finally, I’d like to thank my competitors—including my brothers—for keeping us on our toes and inspiring us to do better.”

Khubani recalled once asking fitness guru Jack LaLanne for a “silver bullet” secret to losing weight and staying in shape, and being disappointed in the answer: “Eat less, exercise more.” But Khubani soon figured out that there are no silver bullets, as his own secret to success (“Set goals, work hard, and stay positive”) reveals. Addressing the industry’s challenges can be equally uncomplicated, he assured the audience.

“Without problems, life would get so boring,” he said. “If every product had a $5 CPO, what would we do with all of our time? The playing field is always changing, and we have always found ways to figure it out. This is an amazing industry. I’m thankful to be a part of it, and I thank everyone in this room for making it happen.”

Taking Home the Trophies

The Ronco/Bluewater Media team celebrated another win.

ERA Lifetime Achievement Award
A.J. Khubani, CEO, TeleBrands Corp.

DR Icon Award
Leeza Gibbons

ERA Volunteer of the Year Award
Rick Petry, Creative Writer, LLC

Mercury Wing Award
Ranjit Mulgaonkar, CEO, DNA Response, Inc.

Best DR Website Design
Direct Marketer: Generac

Best Short Form, People’s Choice
Butter Express
Bluewater Media
Direct Marketer: Spark Innovators
Media Agency: Lockard & Wechsler

Best Long Form, People’s Choice
Ronco Ready Grill
Bluewater Media
Direct Marketer: Ronco
Producer: Bluewater Media
Other Partners: Bluewater Digital

Best Short Form of the Year, Brand Response
Waterpik Water Flosser
Producer: Mercury Media and GoConvergence
Media Agency: Mercury Media

Best Short Form of the Year, Direct Response
Proactiv+: Personal Adam
Guthy-Renker, LLC
Producer: Lieberman Productions

Best Long Form of the Year, Brand Response
Waterpik Water Flosser
Producer: Mercury Media/GoConvergence
Media Agency: Mercury Media

Best Long Form of the Year, Direct Response
Beachbody, LLC
Media Agency: HAVAS Edge

For a complete list of the 2015 Moxie winners, visit http://blog.retailing.org/direct-response-marketing-industry-celebrates-2015-moxie-award-winners