Prior to the arrival of the Internet, direct response television (DRTV) marketers and their agencies could measure response and sales with reasonable certainty. With dedicated toll-free numbers, advertisers could accurately gauge the number of calls and revenue resulting from individual airings. DRTV was accountable advertising with measurable ROI, as opposed to impression-based advertising, where the metrics were much more squishy.
Then along came the World Wide Web, which offered consumers the opportunity to order online. In the beginning, e-commerce often represented only 10 percent of the direct sales pie, and 90 percent of customers still called in. But oh, how the world has changed: Today, online sales dominate, often representing 80 percent to 100 percent of direct sales.
While many advertisers have tried to create a trackable corollary to dedicated toll-free numbers in the form of unique URLs, most consumers turn to Google to find a product or service. Want proof? According to comScore’s May 2015 desktop search report, Google accounts for a staggering 64 percent of all search. This reliance on search erodes the advertiser’s ability to pinpoint the source(s) of its leads, though many agencies and software developers are trying mightily to bridge that gap.
One can argue that today’s DRTV is largely an impression-based advertising model that uses longer commercial lengths and discounted media to create awareness. Consumers see something that piques their interest, pull out a second screen, conduct their own supplemental research, and make the decision to buy or not to buy. While some might complain that this model undermines DRTV’s fundamental attribution metrics, consumers’ migration to the Internet represents an enormous opportunity, and one that takes us back to our roots: the ability to use sight, sound, and motion to persuade consumers to buy, and then to measure that communication—in more ways than were ever possible with television alone.
To illustrate the point, let’s take a look at reach as a metric. Within the context of TV advertising, “reach” is defined as the number of individuals exposed to a commercial within a given universe. Measuring this has historically relied on a Nielsen sampling of a miniscule number of U.S. TV households relative to the total universe—today, estimated at 116 million. With the Internet, however, a marketer can determine reach by measuring views with precision.
And that’s just the beginning. Online, an advertiser can also measure relevance by gauging play rates. For example, a marketer can put up video clips of three testimonials and determine which one is viewed the most. This insight can then be used to rejigger the television creative to make it more compelling. The ability to answer questions that DRTV advertisers have long scratched their heads about such as “How long is my average audience watching?” can now be measured with certainty. Again, this intelligence has profound implications because it can be used to perfect TV messaging. Social media and word-of-mouth provide another yardstick to help determine the extent to which a creative approach and offer are resonating with the public.
But in order to take advantage of such insights, a marketer must commit to using their video assets online. That means moving beyond running a call-to-action when a prospect hits the landing page; it means having a true dedication to creating unique content for the online environment and giving it a budget sufficient enough to test, measure, and refine campaigns to perform optimally. But imagine the possibilities: In the online space, single-variable testing can be achieved for pennies, whereas the cost of new dubs and TV airtime has made measuring such individual variables prohibitively expensive. A marketer can now get to the heart of what matters most to prospective customers with precision and certainty, then leverage that knowledge to create marketing communications that resonate with a target audience.
That’s not to say that online marketing is the end-all and be-all for advertisers. Nothing puts the “mass” in mass media as much as TV advertising. In a world of infinite distractions, there’s nothing like it to spur interest. But in an omnichannel marketplace where the consumer is in the driver’s seat, online is where prospects are being pushed down the sales funnel—and increasingly where they turn looking for permission to buy. Therefore, the marketer who organizes video assets to make it easy for prospects to get the information they seek will undoubtedly win. But don’t take my word for it—measure it for yourself.
Photo by Master isolated images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Rick Petry is a freelance writer who specializes in direct marketing and is a past chairman of ERA. He can be reached at (503) 740-9065 or online at rickpetry.com and @thepetrydish on Twitter.
The above blog post was adapted from the “Dish” column published in the September-October issue of ER magazine.