CDMA makes plea for infomercials

The head of the Canadian Direct Marketing Association says the major components of direct response television - infomercial and home shopping services - should be exempt from broadcast licences.And last month, John Gustavson, president and chief executive officer of the cdma,...

The head of the Canadian Direct Marketing Association says the major components of direct response television – infomercial and home shopping services – should be exempt from broadcast licences.

And last month, John Gustavson, president and chief executive officer of the cdma, says the organization tendered a submission to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to that effect.

Call for comments

The submission was made in response to the crtc’s general call for comments on how home shopping/infomercial services could be accommodated on cable and broadcast systems.

The call was issued after several of the specialty channel applications received by the crtc last fall contained arguments for the use of full-motion for infomercials and home shopping channels, and exemption from the 12-minute limit on the length of infomercials.

Gustavson expects the crtc to respond to the cdma submission, and those on the same subject prepared by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and the Canadian Cable Television Association, late spring or early summer.

He says the cdma view is that the licensing process is time-consuming and expensive and not necessary for infomercials.

The cdma is proposing that infomercials not be shown on licensed channel areas, but rather that cable companies be allowed to air home shopping and infomercials on unused areas of the spectrum.

If the crtc does issue a licence this year to an infomercial or home shopping network, Gustavson does not believe it will restrict others, such as cable companies, from also receiving permission to run infomercials.

He also expects if a licence for a new home shopping/infomercial network is granted, it will be for full-motion broadcast, and that, in turn, the Canadian Home Shopping Network, an unlicensed still-motion network, will be allowed to go full-motion.

Gustavson blames the 12-minute limit for the slow growth of the infomercial industry in Canada and believes the restriction should be lifted.

Current regulations call for infomercials not to exceed 12 minutes for broadcast during the day and evening, while those up to 30 minutes in length are relegated to the hours between midnight and 6 a.m.

Infomercials and home shopping networks also fall under the direct response tv umbrella, which Gustavson describes as any tv advertising that allows the viewer to make an instant buying decision and to respond directly over the telephone or through the mail.

The CDMA submission also discusses the revenue potential of infomercials, not only through the distribution and marketing of products, but also for production companies and broadcasters.

U.S. purchases

Gustavson says, last year, Canadians bought $100 million in goods and services through u.s. infomercials.

‘Some Canadians may not like to see infomercials, but that’s $100 million a year lost from the Canadian economy, and it will continue,’ he says.

Right now, Gustavson says the direct response industry has the ability to deliver a great number of short-form infomercials, 60 seconds and over, to the airways but he says mainstream stations and networks ask too much money for the airtime.

Gustavson says an unlicensed regime in which nothing but infomercials ran would be much more economical.

As tough as current Canadian infomercial regulations are, some advertisers have decided the vehicle fits their marketing strategy and are working within the guidelines.

In January, Midas Canada began a 26-week run of The Car Care Report, a 10-minute infomercial, once a week during ctv’s Canada A.M. Weekend Edition.

The program runs in most markets on Saturday from 11 a.m. to noon and Midas has locked in the 11:52 a.m. to noon slot for its infomercial.

Midas agency Ogilvy & Mather has developed a series of eight infomercials each containing five modules: a driving tip, a maintenance and repair tip, a spot on ‘about your vehicle,’ a human interest story about a Midas franchisee or employee and a corporate message.

The direct response aspect is in the form of two breaks featuring a 1-800 number which viewers can call to get up to $100 in Midas coupons.

Daryl Dickinson, o&m director of retail operations, says:

‘Our original thought was to develop a 30-minute version, but we became frustrated with what we could do with it, being restricted to after midnight time periods on Canadian stations.

‘The whole idea of going to a 10-minute version was born out of that, and now that we’ve got it, we’re quite comfortable with it, but it would be nice to have that flexibility to go the 30-minute route,’ he says.

Dickinson says what Midas wanted to accomplish in the program – building trust and focussing on services the company does not usually talk about – could not be done in 60 seconds.

More convincing

‘By working with a longer unit, you can end up with a far more convincing brand communication, and can slot in the sell parts in a less obtrusive manner, making it far more effective in the long run,’ he says.

Young & Rubicam is another agency actively working on infomercials for its clients.

While Young & Rubicam Advertising, New York recently announced the formation of a unit to focus on infomercials, home shopping and other forms of electronic retailing, the Canadian offices have been putting those modes of advertising into action for some time.

A successful Toronto test of an infomercial last November – a joint venture of Ford Credit and four independent Ford dealers – has spawned the spring rollout of a new national 30-minute infomercial.

The infomercial was created for the 400-member companies in the Ford/Mercury Dealers Association and again talks about the Ford leasing program.

Tailored regionally

It will be tailored for each region and will run about twice a week in full-motion on conventional stations between midnight and 6 a.m. and will be edited to a 30-minute still-motion version for community channels to run four to eight times a day.

Agency and client have also taken the infomercial to its next step – interactive.

In Quebec, Ford sponsored the Olympic coverage with an interactive commercial on Videotron’s Videoway network.

At each commercial break, viewers got to choose from four commercials depending on their interest, such as truck, van, sedan, luxury car, or fun and sport vehicle.

Since interactive is a two-way communication between the network and the home, viewer response can provide Ford with names of prospective buyers and even what type of vehicle they are interested in.