New TV picture offers opportunity

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct marketing. Alternating columnists are Barbara Canning Brown, a leading figure in the Canadian direct marketing industry, and David Foley, a specialist in database marketing programs.Strategy also...

The following column, which appears each issue, looks at new and emerging trends in direct marketing. Alternating columnists are Barbara Canning Brown, a leading figure in the Canadian direct marketing industry, and David Foley, a specialist in database marketing programs.

Strategy also invites other news items or column submissions for this section. Enquiries should be directed to Mark Smyka, editor, (416) 408-2300.

Will the new structural framework released by the crtc on June 3 really offer Canadians ‘increased choice and control over their television services’ in the future?

Will Canadians get to bank, book a trip or buy a new sofa through interactive tv? The answer is, maybe.

At the recent Canadian Direct Marketing Association convention, author Joel Barker gave an articulate keynote address.

In essence, his message was ‘paradigm shifts’ follow a predictable pattern: the radical thinkers are first rejected, then later welcomed as existing solutions (the current paradigm) become less effective.

Therefore, Barker argues, the best time to look at new ideas is well before you need them.

In this sense, direct marketers and traditional retailers might look to the new tv framework and the role it could play in their new marketing plans.

One of the real challenges facing the catalogue industry, for instance, is the costs associated with the preparation, printing and distribution of merchandise catalogues.

All sorts of formulae exist to minimize these costs, but, the fact remains, these are costly components.

There are perceptual problems, too, relating to environmental concerns and privacy issues, which the industry is dealing with under the leadership of the cdma.

One option for these direct marketers is to have the tv as the catalogue, and the in-home, hand-held laser gun as the ordering device.

At the same time, traditional retailers are facing a difficult set of problems that suggest they, too, should rethink their marketing strategies.

The ‘shopping experience’ is not what it used to be, namely, satisfying and safe. The growth of specialty retailers can be traced to the fact that department stores were out of touch with the service needs of their customers.

Now, the service in some specialty stores is as bad as the department stores ever were. Discount operations are flourishing, probably because consumers rationalize that, ‘If I don’t get the service, why should I pay the price?’ Game, set and match. Perhaps these retailers should look to tv to extend their sales reach.

Imagine that in the new world of cable television, channels 125-149 are reserved for retailers. A wide choice of channels is essential to establish a competitive environment, as currently exists in your mail or at your local mall.

With a combination remote control and laser gun in hand, you select the shopping channels of your choice.

Click. Channel 129. It is Weekend Wear, a collection of casual clothes formerly offered by catalogue.

To order, just fire your laser gun at the product of your choice and your tv screen freeze-frames on your product selection and presents an order form, which you complete by ‘checking’ the appropriate boxes with the laser gun. Your purchase arrives the next day via Purolator/Canada Post.

Click. Channel 138. A travel firm is presenting a 20-minute video on several travel holidays to Hawaii.

There is a special offer if you request more information on these holiday packages, and if you decide to book with them. One shot of your laser gun and the information you want is on its way to you.

Click. Channel 149. Moving to Seattle? Denver? Halifax? Go through a virtual reality tour of homes in your new city, all from your couch.

The hypothetical examples cited above, and many others, have practical application in the new world of tv viewing.

One thing is certain, these channels must have all the color, sound and motion of the medium. No more of this still-photo-and-voiceover routine.

The fact is, those people who want to buy clothes, find out about a Hawaiian holiday or a new home in a strange city (or anything else licensed to be broadcast for that matter) will tune into these specialty information channels because they are seeking the information that is being offered.

Those who do not, will not, so the existence of these channels represents no particular inconvenience.

Interactive tv should mean more than just pay-per-view movies and sporting events, more channels should mean more than endless Cheers reruns.

It is time to redefine ‘the box’ and its role in everyday living.

David Foley Associates specializes in design implementation and evaluation of database marketing programs. Please direct comments and questions to David Foley, David Foley Associates, 48 Woodman’s Chart, Unionville, Ont. L3R 6K7, or call or fax (416) 940-8784.