Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fight DRTV Fatigue With Creative Tweaks

For many in DRTV marketing, keeping the advertising fresh when the products and offers don't change much is a challenge.

In some cases, such as with Nautilus (which sells the Bowflex line of fitness equipment), the message tends to stay the same while only the faces and testimonials differ. With 20 years of ads and research, though, the company has found a system that works for them and stays fresh enough to keep interest levels high.

Other companies, such as Guthy-Renker (Proactiv and other health products) have an 18-month rule for an ad's lifespan, but change a few pieces of the ad during its life in order to keep it fresh. A 30-minute creative can have seasonal, promotional and competitive changes added or swapped to keep the ad fresh.

Keeping ad copy and presentation fresh is a challenge for those in competitive markets, such as cosmetics or cleaning supplies. In these markets, highlighting differences is paramount and the ability to change an ad mid-stream to cope with and differentiate it from new competition is important.

Some general advertisers have tried DRTV during the recession and have stayed, finding that it works. The Electronic Retailing Association, the industry trade group for DRTV, has added Jenny Craig, and Avon as members over the past year. This has also changed the market, raising TV ad rates and altering how some are required to do business in light of new competition and higher costs.

DRTV spending has grown to a $4.5+ billion annual market and, despite the recession, is becoming more and more competitive as well. Analysts are expecting a big year for 2010 and continued growth in 2011.

Friday, September 17, 2010

DRTV Industry will benefit on Fast-Tracking Patents

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) may soon be offering a way for frustrated inventors to hurry along their patent applications through a new, expedited system.

The Patent Office says this fast-tracking system is a response to many who believe that the patenting system is too slow to keep pace with the speed of technology.

“Some patents need to go fast and some need to go more slowly,” says Patent Office chief David Kappos. The plan would allow those who need a faster decision on their patent applications to pay an extra fee to have it expedited through the system.

The proposal could go into effect next year, after public input is completed this summer. Currently, and for its entire history, the Patent Office has reviewed applications on a first-come, first-served basis. This would be the first major overhaul to the patent process' system of acceptance since the Office's inception.

Many other government offices already offer expedited services at a higher fee, including the State Department's passport processing service. It takes an average of 34.6 months for a patent application to go from initial filing to acceptance, up from 26.7 months in 2003.

Currently, the Patent Office already offers a fast-track program for “green” technologies and that program has had good success. It’s looking to build upon these capabilities for this new, broader-reaching fast-tracking and will sure lead to a more productive drtv campaigns.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Android and Friends to Take On iPad

The Taipei Computer Trade Show has long been a venue for manufacturers to show their latest wares in the gadget arena.

This year is no different as computer makers Acer and Dell have both announced tablet devices to compete with Apple's popular iPad, released this year. Both companies also said that their devices will be using Google's Android operating system as their software backbone.

This shows that Android is the OS of choice against Apple's proprietary operating system for its mobile smart devices (iPad and iPhone). It also shows that Microsoft may be out of the running, for now, as far as its mobile offerings as Hewlett-Packard is rumored to have delayed release of its tablet computer because of problems with Windows.

In the smartphone world, markets clearly divided and then Apple dominated because of several factors. The first was mobile carriers, with Apple tied to AT&T and others open to many carriers, this seemed like a losing situation for Apple. Fighting back on the software front, however, Apple dominated by giving a leg up to developers and dominating the applications market with more apps available for their devices than any other maker or operating system.

With hardware mostly all coming from the same core sources, such as ARM Holdings, which makes chips that power about 40 tablet-style devices currently or soon-to-be on the market as well as 10 e-reader devices for electronic books, the competition is all in software.

Android's clear advantages are in its free-to-use architecture, its more open availability to developers and device makers and the fluidity between devices. Its weak point currently is application development, for which it has only about 25% of what is available for Apple devices.

With Apple already well on in an early lead, it's questionable that others will be able to catch up, but Android devices are certainly planning to make a run at it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Shoppers Coming Out of Their Recession-Built Shells

March saw a 1.6% surge in retail sales this year, one of the contributing factors that is leading economists to conclude that the United States may be recovering from the recent financial crash more quickly than previously anticipated.

Banks are also rebounding quickly; J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. saw a 55% profit gain this quarter, which many see as a sign that investors can be optimistic about the coming year.

For advertisers and retailers, this is good news: consumer spending is expected to grow at an annualized rate of more than 3% in the first quarter. Previous, less optimistic expectations had that number at less than 2% - a nearly 50% increase.

Equally important is what consumers are spending their money on – motor vehicle sales have increased 6.7%, clothing sales have increased 2.3%, and furniture sales are up by 1.5%.

Economists say that consumers generally spend money on these kinds of items when they feel optimistic about the future and more inclined to spend discretionary income. Sales of electronics and appliances are also up 3.6% from the same month last year, though they slipped slightly from February to March.

The one pessimistic point in all these optimistic numbers is the fact that a consumer spending-fueled recovery could indicate that another slump is just around the corner. The recession simply may not have lasted long enough for consumers to have learned their lessons about carrying debt and discretionary spending.

Still, no reason not to enjoy the sun while it shines.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Online TV Gets More Engaging With Interactive Features

As viewers turn to online venues for TV watching, networks are looking for ways to capitalize on that engagement while simultaneously staying up-to-date with what users expect in an online world.

The web is an interactive medium, with people constantly telling each other what to look at, what they’re doing and what to do; in turn, television networks are discovering that there are many ways they can turn that tendency to their advantage.

NBC unveiled an online video viewer that inserts other content related to the video being shown. Their new design allows users to take quizzes, view deleted scenes, and read blogs that talk about what’s happening on their favorite shows.

On ABC, viewers are mostly looking at the full-screen video, but they also have access to interactive comments and can share the episode on Facebook.

ABC is trying to keep up with the interactive needs of its users by making commentary from producers and actors available with their episodes, along with comments and ways to send the episodes to their friends, netting more page views and more click-throughs.

Indeed, that may be the whole point of more interactive features: online advertisers look at the time spent on a site as a gauge for how much the ad revenue is worth. With interactive features, networks can raise that number – and potentially their ad costs.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Are Facebook Ads Getting Too Personal?

Ads that are custom-tailored to the user are nothing new in an online world.

After all, any time you open an email on Gmail, Google pops up several ads related to the content of the text inside. Apple’s renowned for targeting its users with custom recommendations for future purchases on their iTunes store. We’re accustomed to a certain amount of information-gathering so companies can deliver relevant ads that we might actually be interested in.

Looks like Facebook may have crossed a line, though.

Facebook’s users post more personal information on their pages than what they’ve been buying lately, which makes for ads that are tailored to personal likes and dislikes, opinions or associations, and even changes in their relationship.

One problematic ad rush has been among women who change their Facebook status to “engaged” and receive a glut of ads offering them wedding-related merchandise.

For many, it’s too invasive a method of advertising. On the other hand, many advertisers have come to find it quite successful, though some are using the info they have to get attention for schemes.

One company in particular is fond of using personal info to get users attention (26-year-olds get a free iPad!) and then trying to convince users to sign up for completely unrelated services.

Facebook says they’re still working out the kinks in its online advertising. It might want to hurry; users are not enjoying the experience of ads that get too personal.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

TV Finds Unlikely Source to Credit for Viewer Boost

The Internet has been warily eyed by television networks as a potential rival, but the latest numbers for viewership of live events seems to tell a different tale: the internet is actually working in the networks’ favor.

The Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the Super Bowl and even the Grammys saw huge upticks in their viewership this year, particularly the Super Bowl, which was the most watched program in the entire history of television in the United States. Networks are crediting this surge in television watching to, yes, the Internet, and particularly social media.

With so many people on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and other chat engines, viewers can talk with their friends about events in real time, even if those friends are on the other side of the globe. The Internet may also be fueling interest as a simple promotional tool; when the entire Internet is abuzz with the upcoming game, it’s more likely that viewers and online media buyers are going to be excited to tune in.

Networks are even finding that viewers tune in to see events that they already know the outcome of. If someone hears about a stunning win by an athlete in the Olympic Games, they’re not willing to limit their experience to one 140-character tweet. They want to see it for themselves.

And that’s shaping up to be a good combination for the networks.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cable Still Strong Despite Recession

Network television has been taking a hard hit from the recession, with their advertisers pulling out at the last minute and bidding much lower for the time slots that used to bring in the major advertising dollars.

Since it gets much smaller numbers in terms of viewers, it’s easy to think that cable would be, if anything, in even more trouble than network when it comes to bringing in advertisers.

Turns out that isn’t so. Advertisers cut their budgets for television by $10 billion in the first two quarters of 2009, but cable actually managed to grow nonetheless, getting up to nearly $8.8 billion, a 1.5% increase from last year. Granted, these aren’t exactly mind-shattering growth numbers, but they’re still extremely impressive when you consider that television advertising overall took such a major hit.

The upfronts are of course the most looked-to barometer for how well network television is doing, and the numbers are consistent with the advertising reports overall. Upfront spending dropped 12% to just $6.7 billion. This doesn’t necessary mean that network advertising spending is as bleak as many would speculate from upfront numbers alone, because the recession has forced many companies into a “wait and see” philosophy rather than gambling on the future success of a show.

Even more telling, sellers are depending more on “scatter” than ever before, which continues to improve the return on investment for advertising budgets. The amount of airtime held back for scatter could cause a large excess of unsold inventory, which may very well turn into a bidding war as air time gets closer. Even if such a scenario occurs, it’s not likely to turn out well for the networks, since they need to fill that air time and may need to sell that inventory at lower rates.

While network takes a thrashing, cable is expected to grow over twice as fast this year, with a 3.6% increase to $20.2 billion in 2010.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Is Online Advertising Really a Better Option Than Television?

Setting aside the question of legality, the availability of full-length TV shows has been growing by leaps and bounds since the first arrival of YouTube, but the battle to make some money off of the venture has been proceeding at a snail’s pace by comparison.

In the last year or so, quite a few leaps have been made to ensure large media outlets get paid for their show’s popularity online in forums like Hulu, where they can run short ads when someone views old and current TV shows.

The rush to make money in online channels has created a lot of buzz as executives fear they’ll lose their television ad revenue as viewers switch to watching online. Their fears seemed founded: TV ad rates are less than they have been in previous years, as advertisers scale back their marketing budgets to accommodate their dwindling revenues.

Online advertising is cheaper and seemed to be reaching a wider audience. Even as they learned to make money through online ads, television execs were concerned for their dwindling revenue overall.

They may not need to be concerned. A new survey by eMarketer indicates that while online ad revenue is fast growing, TV advertisers will actually spend less per hour of viewing than their online counterparts – by a stunning 38%.

Maybe it isn’t time to give up the ghost on old-fashioned TV advertising after all; in short order, it could be cheaper to reach the same audience on the tube than on the net.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Advertisers Win the Battle for Lower TV Rates

TV giants have been saying they don’t intend to lower their TV rates, no matter how bad the recession gets. After all, it’s still valuable real estate that reaches millions of viewers.

There’s news leaking out that the giants are sinking bit by bit, though, and that’s made them slightly more amenable to negotiating lower rates. The price drops are small, by all accounts – but when the TV networks had been saying they wouldn’t budge at all, even a small drop is a big victory for advertisers.

Broadcast networks have been seeing fewer advertisers willing to spend big money for TV spots for the last year. Declining ratings and the auto industry’s difficulties are also contributing factors, seeing as car ads are one of the most common appearances on TV.

The upfronts are also looking at a makeover. Previously, TV networks would sell commitments to deliver viewers, usually in lots of 1,000 viewers. They would also save some commitments to sell when the commercials were closer to air time, in hopes of negotiating a higher rate if the show were doing well. Advertisers preferred buying in advance if the show did well; the networks preferred selling late.

Now that trend is reversed. Hewlett-Packard has decided to wait and see if the audience they’re seeking actually tunes in, abandoning the upfronts. If their reaction is any indication, networks may have to cut their rates simply to pull in those upfront dollars – though for some, it’s worth the risk to wait.

Rather than get low, but guaranteed, upfront rates now, the networks may take a chance on the strength of their shows and hope for higher rates when it’s closer to commercial time. It’s a lot of pressure on the fall lineup.