He said, He said

In this Strategy Direct+Interactive eight-part series, Vickers & Benson Direct & Interactive's Bryan Tenenhouse and Steve Murray chew the fat on everything from 'How to give constructive feedback so you're getting what you want from your agency' to 'Creative department employee retention: Nightmare on Elm Street.'

In this Strategy Direct+Interactive eight-part series, Vickers & Benson Direct & Interactive’s Bryan Tenenhouse and Steve Murray chew the fat on everything from ‘How to give constructive feedback so you’re getting what you want from your agency’ to ‘Creative department employee retention: Nightmare on Elm Street.’

Bryan: In our last article we ventured a guess that the success of the Rogers’ ‘Rigor Mortis’ television campaign was probably based more on mass awareness objectives than direct. After that article came out, we received several emails asking for a perspective on DRTV. What works?

Steve: Bryan and I have both done our fair share of DRTV. So let’s go over the techniques that, in our experience, have proven effective.

Connect with the consumer early. Make sure you get their attention but that the creative doesn’t overpower the sell message. You want the consumer to know what you’re selling at the outset. If the creative takes too much time to set up, you’re losing valuable sell time.

Bryan: A good way to ensure that doesn’t happen is to structure your DRTV commercial so that you spend approximately the first 20% of the spot on the problem that the product or service overcomes. The other 80% should be features, benefits, offer, and call-to-action.

The Rogers ‘Rigor Mortis’ campaign followed a mass structure with 95% of the spot focusing on the problem humorously. The goal of that spot was probably to provide air cover for more tactical initiatives. Conversely, the Sprint Canada OnePlan spot that you and I did last year had aggressive lead generation objectives against the medium of television itself. We also had the challenge of explaining a complicated product with a multitude of price points. All within 60 seconds.

Steve: In this case, we did use the problem/solution technique, but the problem was quickly and clearly defined up front in a creative, entertaining and compelling way so that we could talk about the product as solution for the other 80% of the spot.

Bryan: We don’t want to use our word count here to actually describe the spot (you may have seen it). But it’s important to note that it does demonstrate that you can use a very creative hook in a DRTV spot that actually enhances your selling message and defines your product.

Steve: A spokesperson is a great way to convey product features and benefits.

Bryan: Don’t forget, the spokesperson is talking directly to your consumer. In our opinion, nothing works better than getting the sell directly from the horse’s mouth when your response objectives are so aggressive.

Steve: And the proof really is in the pudding. This spot for Sprint Canada’s OnePlan generated results that made it one of the most successful DRTV commercials in recent Sprint Canada history.

Bryan: Other ways to get great results include using testimonials, metaphors, demonstrations, humour and emotion to bring the benefits of the product to life or to demonstrate the key selling point.

And don’t forget your supers. The ‘see and say’ approach is key to driving your message home clearly. It works because viewers tend to remember and respond to a benefit if what they hear in the voiceover is reinforced by what they see in the super.

Steve: Make the supers easy to read. You don’t want to let your background imagery distract your viewer from the sell. And don’t let your visuals or music (although important) detract from telling the story either.

Bryan: Like all good direct initiatives, use an offer and try to have a deadline for responding to create a sense of urgency.

Steve: Most importantly, get the phone number up there early. Ideally within the first 15 seconds. (In the Sprint Canada OnePlan spot, the number was up for the entire duration. The call-to-action was also mentioned twice within the spot.) And hold your last screen with the product name, the offer and the call-to-action for at least 7 seconds in a 60 second spot.

Bryan: That covers some of the most effective techniques. But even before you start conceiving and structuring a spot, you need to think about your business objectives. Sure, the above tactics work gangbusters when you’re developing a hard-hitting DR spot with extremely aggressive numbers to hit. But what if there is an awareness objective against the spot?

Steve: It’s important to note that both DRTV and awareness TV build the brand. But an awareness spot uses very different techniques to achieve its goals. An awareness spot’s main objective is to create a positive lasting impression of your brand so that when the consumer, over time, develops a need for your product, the advertising has created such an emotional connection that they decide to choose your product over your competitor’s product. When this is your main objective, rather than to generate call volume, you are forced to approach the creative in a way that actually becomes counterproductive to results.

Bryan: You can strike the right balance. But you need to know what you’re getting into up front. Spending more time on emotional hot buttons rather than rational ones will have an effect on your response and cost per call. Know the effect those emotional hot buttons will have against the hard sell. Spending more time evoking an emotion means spending less time actually selling product.

Steve: Imagine a car sales guy asking you to watch this beautiful and amazingly exciting car chase while he stands behind you and describes the car’s features and benefits in detail. What do you think you’ll retain? Probably that it’s a fast, beautiful and cool car.

Bryan: Being devil’s advocate here for a moment. Couldn’t you still drive traffic to the dealer by leaving the viewer with the impression that it’s a fast, beautiful, cool car? That’s how you get people to want to test drive a car.

Steve: Of course, but my point is more to illustrate that strong emotional visuals can and will detract from a more rational selling message. If your objectives are to make the phone ring immediately, you’d better have a strong, creative rational message that has all the information the consumer needs to make an informed purchase decision right away.

Bryan: A good example would be a Jaguar spot we saw from a few years ago.

Steve: Right. That spot had the beautiful, fast, cool cars. But it used strong direct response tactics like employee testimonials and trade magazine quotes to enhance the selling message with strong features and benefits. At the same time, the advertiser conveyed the sense of passion, quality and service that are behind every Jaguar vehicle.

Bryan: So I guess you can even sell a car using rational selling features as well as emotional content – it’s really all about balancing the two so that the larger percentage of your spot is response focused.

Bryan Tenenhouse is SVP, creative director at VBDI. Collaborator Steve Murray is also SVP, creative director at VBDI. They can be reached at (416) 487-6446 or on the Web at www.vbdi.com