Friday Forecast: Direct Marketers: Take Five! (Minutes, That Is)

by Colleen Ferrier and Rick Petry on May 5, 2017 11:40:22 AM Trends, Consumer Impression


Somewhere between half-hour paid programs and shorter length television commercials, there is the minimercial. Also, known as mid-form direct response advertising, these longer advertisements (that are also shorter when compared to paid programs) can range from three to seven minutes. However, it is the five-minute length or, simply, the five, that has emerged as the most common length amongst this range of opportunities, and your Friday Forecasters think it is a concept whose time has come for a variety of reasons we shall outline below.

Let’s begin by examining the limitations of shorter length spots, i.e., everything that ranges from :10 promotional announcements to 2:00 DRTV commercials. The typical direct response spot contains more or all of the following components:

  • Problem
  • Solution (Articulation of Unique Selling Proposition)
  • Benefits and Features
  • Testimonials
  • Offer Build
  • Call to Action
  • Cross Sells

That’s a lot of information to cram into a short space of time. On the other hand, the infomercial, which typically runs 28-1/2 minutes, gives a marketer the luxury of time to delve into all of the above without limitation. Yet the genre has become less and less appealing amid a universe where viewers have so much choice. While one can argue that simply by virtue of its length, a paid program has a greater chance of netting an audience, the converse argument asserts that in the day and age of multiple screens, YouTube, Netflix, DVRs, on-demand, and so on, that the idea that someone would actually sit still and watch an entire or good portion of an infomercial is, perhaps, a misguided notion.

Enter the five-minute minimercial which combines the best of both worlds: the broader range of dayparts that shorter formats afford combined with enough time to tell your story. According to DR agency Koeppel Direct’s President and Founder, Peter Koeppel, these five-minute time slots are “available on some 60 national networks and on many local affiliate channels in every imaginable daypart.” Koeppel adds, “Five minute pods allow us to get our clients into great time periods and expand our reach on networks like Animal Planet that simply don’t sell paid programming airtime. Just imagine how powerful that can be for a product in the pet category, to cite just one example.”

Unlike shorter spots and infomercials, the five-minute format allows marketers to be less hidebound to formula. The extra time afforded can be used to do more in-depth demonstrations, have more meaningful testimonials (versus a quick sound bite), and describe complex offers without an announcer rattling it off so breathlessly one can hardly comprehend what they are saying. And they don’t necessarily air in the middle of the night. Commented Koeppel, “We’ve seen fantastic ROI for certain categories including health and beauty, housewares, and even charities. We reach a bigger audience in more highly-watched dayparts. Five minutes force the advertiser to really create a succinct message and I think that appeals to today’s distracted viewer.”

In addition to the cost benefits associated with shorter length airtime, the cost of production is far less than it is for an advertiser producing an infomercial. Advertisers in categories such as diet, pharmaceutical, and nutraceuticals who rely on lengthier disclaimers also have more time to communicate this information to viewers and be compliant with government and broadcast regulators. There are no “paid programming” disclaimers typically required, and the fives frequently air in the middle of regular programming versus being buried in paid programming blocks where viewership is lower. As for ability to scale, Koeppel asserts, “It is not uncommon to spend $50,000 to $75,000 a week, and as much as $500,000 weekly in extraordinary cases.” A test, he adds, is typically “$20,000 to $30,000 a week.”

With 90 percent of consumers watching TV with a second screen nearby, it is clear that DRTV has, first and foremost, become a mechanism for creating awareness and driving prospects online where they conduct research on such things as brand and product reputation, claims, and price. It isn’t so much about driving an immediate sale then, as it is sparking curiosity and pushing prospects into the sales funnel where they will engage further and, hopefully buy, from the channel of their choosing. For these reasons, your Friday Forecasters unabashedly suggest that everybody “Take 5!”

About the Authors

Colleen & Rick.jpgColleen Ferrier is a seasoned direct marketing expert who specializes in guiding integrated direct-to-consumer campaigns with an acute focus on ROI. Her broad experience has included management oversight of marketing, operations, media, and international distribution.  The campaigns she has been instrumental in helping lead to success across her 15+ year career include Pillow Pets, Little Giant Ladder, Dream Lites, and Stompeez. Ferrier has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Augusta University, Georgia.

Rick Petry is a direct marketing veteran of over 25 years who has been involved with campaigns that have generated over $1 billion in sales. He provides creative services to both B2C and B2B marketing campaigns and recent projects have included Actegy/Revitive, Education Connection, GOLO, Joybird, and OYO/DoubleFlex. The author of over 200 articles on direct marketing best practices, Petry has a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema/Television from the University of Southern California and an MBA with a Concentration in Marketing and Sales from Marylhurst University. 

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