There’s Still Room for the Little Guy

Q: Should smaller firms be concerned about the big brands’ push into the DRTV space?

A: Brand advertisers discovered DRTV years ago, and in doing so managed to squeeze out some of the early inventors who were enjoying the low media rates and high accountability associated with the medium. Seemingly overnight, the space-once reserved for innovative entrepreneurs and their gadgets and gizmos in search of affordable airtime and direct consumer contact-was literally invaded by the likes of P&G, Toyota, Pfizer, Kodak and hundreds of other firms whose TV ad budgets were once allocated to image advertising spots.

The brand movement into DRTV had both positive and negative impacts on entrepreneurial types. On one hand, it helped legitimize a medium that for decades had struggled to rise above its reputation for being advertising’s “ugly stepchild.” After all, when Apple suddenly allows its highly protected brand to be touted via DRTV, who can argue with the medium’s legitimacy? As more advertisers followed suit, however, DRTV airtime rates increased and production values improved to the point where the “little guy” seemed on the verge of getting squeezed out of the game.

In other words, it was becoming more improbable to slap together a short- or long-form commercial for a few grand, buy some remnant airtime, and sit back and wait for the orders to come pouring into a call center. Many consumers began to recognize the traditional DRTV “yell and sell” for what it was, and were turned off by that style’s hard-sell approach and tacky production values. They wanted more, and the brands were answering the call.

With roughly 60 percent of the adult American population watching DRTV on a regular basis-and one in four of them purchasing a product from it-the odds that a useful, unique product can still break out via DRTV are worth a throw of the dice. Throw in the fact that DRTV works very well with the web, retail, radio, print, mobile advertising and even social networking.

Whether offering new fitness and weight-loss products, selling innovative home appliances or helping consumers get out of debt, today’s inventors can continue to use DRTV as an entry into an advertising channel that would otherwise be cost prohibitive and impossible to measure. Using DRTV’s accountability factor, entrepreneurs can test their products across a myriad of platforms, find out which commercials work (and what ones don’t), and tweak their advertising strategies to yield the best results.

A reminder as to what it still takes to hit a DRTV home run:

  • Markup – If the goal is to sell product directly over TV in a one-step offer, the larger the markup ratio (5 to 1), the greater chance of success.
  • Mass appeal – Television has the unique ability to reach a mass audience.
  • Demonstration – It’s one of life’s small pleasures to watch magical transformations, whether dirty floors to sparkling clean or 100 pounds overweight to fit.
  • Value – Everybody loves a deal. Enough said.
  • With a solid product, compelling offer and experienced producer in his corner, DRTV can still be the launching platform for the little guy with a great idea.