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Published: July 19,1999

Thanks for tuning in to “The Dr. Media Show” — the radio talk show where we discuss the exciting things in the world of advertising. Today, we are discussing direct response advertising. Let’s open the phone lines, June?

June: Dr. Media, our first caller is Carol from San Francisco, Calif. Go ahead, Carol.

Carol: Hi, Dr. Media. I was wondering, um, just what is direct response advertising? Is that where they implant subliminal messages on TV to control your mind?

Dr. Media: No, Carol. Direct response advertising is a method of marketing your product directly to the customer without using a middle source. The advertiser displays a phone number or Web address on the commercial or print ad and interested consumers can call in to order the product or service being advertised.

Carol: Oh, now I understand. Thanks so much for helping, you’re terrific!

Dr. Media: Thanks for calling, Carol. June, who is our next caller?

June: Our next caller is Joyce from Chicago.

Dr. Media: Hi Joyce, what can we answer for you today?

Joyce: Hey, I’ve seen those commercials you’re talking about where they put the phone number up on the screen. You mean, if I want to order an exercise video like “Sweatin’ to The Oldies,” I can call the number and I’ll get to talk to Richard Simmons!?

Dr. Media: No, Joyce. Sorry to disappoint you, but Richard isn’t answering the phone. The calls are directed to a fulfillment house, a business set up to take telephone orders and field basic questions. The information is then forwarded to the advertiser who arranges to ship the product or deliver the service. Next caller, June?

June: Doctor, we have Paula on the line.

Dr. Media: Yes, Paula, do you have a question about direct response advertising?

Paula: Yes I do! I tried to use direct response one time to advertise my product, and it was so confusing. We wanted to find out which TV station was generating the most calls, so we asked everyone that called in where they heard the commercial. They would say stuff like “Channel 7” or “Channel 2.” We could never pin down what the best stations were, so we just kept advertising on everything, which got expensive.

Dr. Media: Paula, you have stumbled on a crucial point in using direct response — tracking. Not every station is going to deliver an efficient response, so it is very important to determine which stations are effective.

The best way is to give each commercial or ad a different 1-800 number. The calls still all go to the same fulfillment house, but it eliminates any question of source. The fulfillment house will then provide you with overnight results showing the number of calls attributed to each phone number/vehicle.

Of course, multiple phone numbers are expensive, and many small advertisers can’t afford to do it this way. If you only have one phone number, try to stagger the times your schedule runs so when the orders come in, you can match the times of your schedule with the time you received the call. June, we have time for one more caller.

June: We have Debbie from Dallas on the line. Go ahead, Debbie.

Debbie: This sounds like an awful lot of trouble. Why would I want to market my product or service this way?

Dr. Media: Well, Debbie, direct response advertising takes all of the guesswork out of scheduling. When we order television time based on rating points or place an ad based on circulation, we are really just hoping that our target audience will see it and respond. With direct response, we know by the number of calls if our efforts are working or not. Plus, we can go a step further and determine if our efforts are cost-efficient. When dividing the cost of adverting on that vehicle by the number of orders it generated you get your cost-per-order (CPO). By comparing the CPOs of all your vehicles, you can easily determine which stations you should continue using and which you should drop. Try doing that with traditional advertising.

Well, we are all out of time. Join us next month when we give you a few exciting tips on cutting your advertising costs without getting preempted!

Betsy Tabor is freelance media consultant in Jackson. She has 16 years of marketing and media experience. Questions and comments about this column should be sent to betsytabor@hotmail.com.

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