No response? What’s going on with your DRTV ads?

Have you ever run a DRTV campaign and didn’t get the results you expected?  This is typically followed by the nagging thought, “Maybe I’ve missed something…“.  Of course, the first thing we do is confirm that the ads really cleared.  Many of us employ ad tracking services that are supposed to answer this question.  However, all they can really tell us is that an encoding associated with our ad was picked up which falls terribly short of answering a number of critical questions such as:  Did the entire ad run or was it cut off?  Did the correct 800 number appear in the spot?  Were the video and audio levels correct?  Here’s a question you may not have thought to ask:  When the network ran my high definition ad on their standard def channel did my toll free number get cut off? 

Below are actual screen shots of a DRTV ad as shown on a standard definition channel.  As you can see, the 800 number extends past title safe and is cut off leaving consumers with no way to respond.

 018379009 018494225

Fortunately, airings verification services are starting to get better.  DRMetrix has created AVS™ a system that tracks all DRTV short and long form ads running on National Cable Networks.  One of the unique aspects of AVS™ is that it also records a copy of each airing.  So, mere minutes after an ad runs, all of its details appear online as well as a video link so you can watch the ad exactly as it aired.  DRMetrix monitors National Cable Network feeds on a 24/7 basis and retains a video copy of all airings for 10 full days.  AVS™ provides airings detail on a real time basis, or in a daily file, for any creative for just $350 for an entire year!  You’ll also receive free cloud based access to the AVS™ online system where you can see all of your airings as they occur in real time with the ability to click and watch.  No encoding or replacing of air tapes is required.

Next time you are troubleshooting a DRTV campaign, and have that nagging thought, just remember all the answers are just a click away!

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DRMA partners with DRMetrix to bring Top 240 Ranking Report to DRTV Industry

Hey DRMA members, if you haven’t checked out the updated Industry Research section at the DRMA’s Website yet, you’re in for a real treat!  As a DRMA member, you now have exclusive access – monthly – to the top 200 direct response TV campaigns in the U.S., plus the top 40 Spanish-language DRTV campaigns powered by DRMetrix!  Rankings are available across four industry categories: short-form products; lead generation; brand DR; and long-form campaigns.  To learn why DRMetrix’s DRTV Spend Index™ Rankings are the most accurate in the industry, click here!

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Why DRMetrix Spend Index™ Rankings are the most accurate in the industry.

By Joseph Gray

I began my career in the direct response television (DRTV) industry back in 1989. During a 22-year period, I built several successful companies on the agency and lead-generation sides of the business, which I ended up selling and exiting from in 2011.  At the time, I knew that I wanted to refocus and do something different.

I had developed a passion for DRTV research back in 2003 when I was invited to co-chair the DRTV Research Committee for the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). During this time, I discovered that much of the research data our industry relies upon is terribly inaccurate. The big television research companies have largely ignored the DRTV industry, failing to monitor infomercials and only offering limited data on DRTV spots. The smaller boutique DRTV research companies do not monitor the cable networks directly, instead receiving their signals through intermediaries, such as local cable or direct to consumer satellite.

Taking advantage of this situation, some DRTV marketers and agencies target buys on such “intermediaries,” knowing it will make their media buys appear larger. Using this approach, some DRTV brands have been awarded the No. 1 industry rank despite spending minimal dollars on national cable. This systemic problem exists because national cable networks are not being monitored directly by the majority of DRTV research companies. At DRMetrix, we believe the DRTV industry deserves better.

DRMetrix deployed its monitoring technology at the beginning of 2015 to directly monitor national cable networks — 24/7/365. Like finding a single strand of DNA, intelligent and automated technology analyzes the digital attributes of every commercial and program to find new DRTV spots and infomercials. To date, across the millions of commercials that DRMetrix’s system has analyzed, more than 500,000 DRTV airings are being identified per month.

DRMetrix also tracks ad breaks in order to determine whether spots are running in local or national breaks. This is an important distinction, because advertisers only pay an average of 10 cents on the dollar to run their spot inside of a local break on national networks. Even if you’re monitoring the national cable networks directly, you can’t deliver accurate industry rankings if you are unable to segment local from national breaks. These are just some of the unique capabilities that make DRMetrix’s DRTV Spend Index™ Rankings the most accurate in the industry.

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Who to Choose for DRMA Marketer of the Year?

I received an email reminder this morning to vote for the 2015 DRMA Marketer of the year.  I decided I needed to peer into the DRMetrix database to help me decide how to vote.

For Long Form, year to date spend data ranks the marketing titans Beach Body as #1 and Guthy-Renker as #2 although neither were nominated this year.  Our #3 advertiser is SharkNinja followed by Total Gym Fitness in our #4 spot.  Bare Escentuals and Zumba rank #15 and #21 respectively.  If you are swayed by spend data, and love the infomercial art form, then SharkNinja (formally Euro-Pro) deserves serious consideration.

For Short Form, of the various nominees this year, Draft Kings has catapulted itself into the lead over the past 60 days with the largest TV spend.  Prior to this onslaught from the King, only one other nominee came close, Telebrands.  In fact, Telebrands held the lead through July of this year.  None of the other short form nominees have come close to the spend of Draft Kings or Telebrands.  I’m not sure yet how to vote on this one because Draft Kings and Telebrands are so very different.  Telebrands is a traditional AS SEEN ON TV marketer, whereas Draft Kings provides an online daily fantasy sports service.  If I decide to vote for a short form advertiser this time around, I’ll certainly give my vote to one of these two outstanding nominees.

Hey wait, when I went to vote I was able to choose my top 3 candidates.  Whew!  That made things easy.

I hope this additional information will help you in casting your vote this year!  You are going to vote aren’t you?  🙂

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A breakthrough in DRTV Airings Verification is here!

Prior to starting DRMetrix, for the majority of my career I have been on the agency side of the business.  Of the various costs associated with running an agency, the cost of airings verification service has ranked near the top.  At DRMetrix, we’re excited to debut a new service that we believe will change the landscape for DRTV airings verification.  AVS™ (a simple name which is short for “airings verification service”) is DRMetrix’s first commercial product offering.

If you’re not already familiar, traditional airings verification services require that you insert an “encoding” into your commercial.  Companies like Kantar, Nielsen, and Civolution have built monitoring systems that report whenever a commercial airs containing one of their encodings.  This solution provides agencies with a more immediate way to know when and where each commercial airs.  That being said, one of the downsides of this approach is that there can be mistakes made with the encodings themselves and these services also tend to be expensive.

Instead of encodings, AVS™ identifies commercials using pattern recognition, a technology that has been around for some time.  Shazam, and other popular mobile apps that use pattern recognition technology, have shown us that it’s possible to identify content with amazing speed and accuracy.  AVS™ extends the idea further by utilizing both audio and video pattern recognition technologies to identify unique TV spots and infomercials.  Early on, we wondered if detection of toll free numbers and web addresses, using optical character recognition, could be combined with this technology to provide a more cost effective approach to identify and report unique variations of DRTV spots and infomercials.  After nearly three years of development the answer is a resounding yes!  Today, AVS™ is able to identify unique spots or infomercials as well as the associated toll free number and/or URL which appears in each airing.  Equally exciting is the fact that AVS™ is able to record each unique airing for online playback.  So, if you’ve ever wondered if your commercial really ran, now there is a way to watch the spot as it aired.  Seeing is believing and AVS™ now makes this possible.

Since AVS™ is based on passive pattern and optical character recognition, the service is also able to provide airings detail for any spot or infomercial.  In the field of competitive media research, there is now a way to see on a real time basis when and where the competition is running.  AVS™ is also able to report historic airings for any DRTV campaign.  Click here to review all of the breakthrough features of AVS™!

For more information or to arrange a demo of AVS™, you may contact DRMetrix at [email protected]

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The blurry line between Brand/Direct and Brand

DRTV has changed dramatically over the years and its time for DRTV research to also change.  At DRMetrix, our goal is to monitor and track all short and long form DRTV creative across the networks we monitor 24/7.   This commitment has required significant investment in technology in order to automatically recognize and track all creative that includes any combination of phone number, URL, or SMS response code.  This technology has allowed DRMetrix to build the industry’s most comprehensive and complete database for DRTV media research.  It has also challenged us to study the blurry line between brand/direct and brand.

Most likely, we will never have universal agreement on how to categorize campaigns between DR, brand/direct, and brand. At DRMetrix, we believe that true DR campaigns leverage a clear call to action where consumer response measurement, and cost per call, order, or MER, drives media execution.  DRMetrix’s technology is the first of its kind to be able to recognize when campaigns use unique phone numbers, promotion and/or URL codes, across different networks.  We assign these types of DR campaigns to either our product, lead generation, or long form categories.  DRMetrix also recognizes DR campaigns that have a  call to action but use the same phone or URL across all networks.  We currently categorize these types of vanity campaigns as brand/direct.  However, things become a bit more blurry when we consider campaigns with a phone and/or URL but without any real call to action.  Is putting a small phone number in your ad really enough of a qualifier to be considered brand/direct?  DRMetrix is in the process of refining our approach to consider factors such whether or not a clear and obvious call to action exists.  In the absence of a clear call to action, we plan to categorize such campaigns as “brand” instead of “brand/direct”.  At this time, DRMetrix only plans on including offers in its brand category that display some way for consumers to respond such as a phone, URL, or SMS code.  Even in the absence of any kind of call to action, it is DRMetrix’s commitment to track all campaigns that include a prominently displayed phone, URL, or SMS code regardless of whether they are considered DR, brand/direct, or brand.

As a way to further categorize campaigns, DRMetrix is working to analyze campaign airings to determine the percentage of units attributed to ROS flights vs. targeted program buys. We believe the industry will value being able to quickly tell which brands and campaigns are focused on ROS buys vs. general execution.  In time, DRMetrix hopes to make the blurry line between Brand/Direct and Brand a little more clear.

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How to succeed in DRTV advertising

At DRMetrix, we believe it comes down to getting your hands on the right research data.

The big television research companies have largely ignored the DRTV industry failing to monitor infomercials and only offering limited data on DRTV spots.  Our goal has been to provide the DRTV industry with rich data and metrics which have not been available historically.  We have partnered with Enswers, a subsidiary of KT Corp., to bring a deep portfolio of patented technologies to the global DRTV marketplace.

DRMetrix’s monitoring technology was deployed at the beginning of 2015 in North America and is currently monitoring national cable networks 24/7/365. Like finding a single strand of DNA, intelligent and automated technology analyzes the digital attributes of every commercial and program to find new DRTV spots and infomercials. To date, across the millions of commercials that DRMetrix’s system has analyzed, over 800,000 DRTV airings a month are being identified!

As DRMetrix continues to aggregate airings data into 2015, we will be bringing several exciting services to market. Our new monthly industry rankings, published by Response Magazine, are the most comprehensive DRTV rankings ever published.

We are pleased to announce a free online version of these reports which will provide expanded rankings and streaming video access to all the top DRTV spots and infomercials monthly. Free online accounts will be provided to all 2015 Response Expo attendees who have their badge scanned at DRMetrix’s booth #615 on April 22 or 23.

DRMetrix will also begin providing custom research services after the Response Expo.  Before producing that next DRTV spot or infomercial, let DRMetrix help you look across the competitive landscape and isolate which campaigns are commanding the most spend. Give yourself a competitive edge by understanding which creative approaches are working and which are failing. Discover which networks and ROS dayparts are working best for any DRTV category allowing you to focus your ad spend wisely. Or, perhaps you’d be interested in the ultimate in competitive media research data such as a real time data feed of airings for any industry category or campaign you wish to monitor? No matter what category of DRTV you are interested in, DRMetrix has the most current and relevant data to help you succeed.

By mid-2015, DRMetrix will begin offering the DRTV industry’s first airings verification service that does not rely upon commercial encodings. This innovative new service will make it possible to get real time airings verification on any DRTV spot or infomercial. Imagine knowing every time your spot or infomercial airs, the toll free number and URL in the ad, network, time of day, and much more! Say “goodbye” to the expense and hassle of encoding based airings verification and say “hello” to the cost savings and genius of DRMetrix’s new airings verification service.   This service will begin beta testing in May of 2015. If you’re interested in being one of the first to try this new service please shoot us an email at [email protected]. Also, be the first to know about future DRMetrix announcements by subscribing to this blog!

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Average Spot Duration

In a prior post, the “% of local” vs. “% of national” was discussed as well as the influence these values have on a brand’s spend index.  DRMetrix plans to add something new to its reports that will provide even greater insight.  We call it the “Average Spot Duration” or “ASD” for short and it will help to explain one of the largest variables affecting advertiser spend.

When looking at our monthly ranking report, it helps to understand that DRMetrix considers ad lengths up to 2 minutes in the short-form category.  We feel this is reasonable as 90 and 120 seconds are often used by DRTV advertisers and the industry largely considers these formats to be short-form.

All other things being equal, the value of a 2 minute spot is worth a multiple of what a 30 or 60 second spot is worth.  Given that some brands may be airing a larger percentage of 2 minute spots, their spend index could be higher despite their aggregate ad units being lower.  This is difficult to understand in the absence of having an “average spot duration” value.

Accordingly, DRMetrix will include a single ASD value that will help to explain when certain short-form campaigns are using a higher percentage of 90 and/or 120 spots.  In such cases, the ASD value will be on the high side, ie: “115s”.  Another campaign running predominately 30 second spots would have a lower ASD value ie: “38s”. By referencing this one column it will make it clear to all the average spot duration that particular brands are airing. The effect that the ASD value has on the overall spend index will be also be better understood.

Even with an ASD value, we know that all campaigns are not executed equally with regard to network and daypart mix.  These differences can also affect a brand’s spend index and there is only so much DRMetrix can do to convey these types of variances on a one page report.   Hopefully, adding an ASD value is a step in the right direction and one that everyone will appreciate!

We’d love to have your input on this and any other questions or comments you may have.

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Short Form Conundrum

Behind the scenes, we’ve been struggling with how to best categorize and represent different short form campaigns in DRMetrix ranking reports. For our friends in the industry that follow this blog, we’d love to hear from you and what you think of our approach.

While slightly depressing to ponder, I began in this industry 26 years ago. Back then, everything seemed so simple and I was young and carefree. Well, young anyway. Traditional DR short form was comprised primarily of impulse products being sold via one step call to order. Ironically, that is the definition of DR that mainstream media research companies still use today which explains why DRTV airings have been so grossly under-reported, but I digress. The point is that short form offers used to fit neatly into a singular category ie: “Short Form DR Products”. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple today.

Our first industry report will be published later this month and we created a category for these type of traditional DRTV product campaigns and cleverly named it “Top 10 Traditional Short-Form DR Products“. We also included a section for “Top 10 Long-Form Products” which left just enough room to include “Top 5 Lead Generation & Top 5 Brand/DR Campaigns”. There are many ways to categorize and break out DRTV campaigns but we thought these four categories were a reasonable approach.

Industry ranking reports have been around for a number of years and it seems one of the prevalent uses has been within the retail industry. If you can get your product high enough in the rankings it may help to convince retailers to carry it. We understand the value of ranking traditional products but with very few exceptions these campaigns do not spend enough to achieve a top 10 ranking if you include DR lead generation campaigns in the same category. This may be one reason why DR lead generation campaigns have been largely overlooked in industry reports.

If you examine DRMetrix’s January report, you’ll see that 90% of the top 10 traditional short form products had a spend rank significantly lower than campaigns listed under lead generation. We think this demonstrates why traditional short form DR products need their own section.

Next month, we plan on adding some additional language to the disclaimer that appears on our report page as follows: Traditional short form will only include “call to order” campaigns where price is specifically disclosed in the spot. For services, low cost trial campaigns, or spots without a price, these campaigns will be ranked separately under lead generation. For the Brand DR category, our disclaimer currently states that this section is reserved for campaigns that do not utilize the traditional approach of tracking cost-per-call or per-lead by individual network. Rather, they commonly utilize the same vanity toll-free number or web address across all media.

Our current approach to categorization only leaves room to rank the top 5 lead generation and brand campaigns unless we go to a second page. Would you prefer that our monthly report continues to focus on traditional categories or would you like more emphasis placed on lead generation and brand/dr?  We’d appreciate your thoughts on the subject!

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What is a meant by “national %” on DRMetrix’s new report?

DRMetrix is offering some new analytics in its industry report.  One that will cause the most confusion is “% of national”.  Simply put, “% National” let’s you know what percentage of the detected airings are true “national” airings vs. less expensive airings running in “local” cue tone ad breaks.  What’s most important to understand is that not all DRTV airings on National Cable Networks are equal.  DRMetrix’s “spend index” is therefore the most reliable way of understanding what one advertiser is spending in comparison to another.  It would be a huge mistake to think because one advertiser has more airings that they are spending more.  It would also be incorrect to think that the advertiser with the higher number of airings is having their ad exposed to more television viewers.  The reason for this is based on the fact that certain national cable spot inventory is worth about 10 cents on the dollar and is only viewed by a small % of U.S. households.  Want all the details?  Keep reading…

As stated, it is important to understand that there are two different types of “ad breaks” that national cable networks sell.  DRTV media buyers refer to these two different types of inventory as “national” and “local” – (“local” meaning inventory in local cue tone ad breaks on the networks).

The “national” ad break is easiest to explain, it’s when the network inserts a commercial that is seen on the TV screen of every cable viewer that is watching that particular network.  This is the inventory that companies like Nielsen rate and is purchased by both traditional brand and DRTV advertisers.  As a general rule of thumb, cable networks run a local break for 2 minutes out of every hour of programming.  The “local” ad break is when the local TV provider has the opportunity to sell and insert a local advertisement.  Let’s use Comcast as an example of a local TV provider that sells local advertising in communities across the country.  It’s true to say that Comcast doesn’t sell advertising in every local market on every cable network.  So if Comcast doesn’t insert an ad during a local break will the viewer be left watching static?  Fortunately, this doesn’t happen because the cable network always sells this inventory as a “local”.  If Comcast has sold the inventory, they simply “cover up” the network’s “local” with the commercial of a local market Comcast advertiser.

Many of us may recall a time when we were watching a commercial and the cover up ended prematurely allowing us to briefly see the end of another spot before programming resumed.  You now understand that the spot that was covered up was sold by the cable network as a “local”.  Since Nielsen doesn’t rate commercials running on cable networks in these local breaks, brand agencies don’t typically purchase this inventory.  DRTV advertisers, on the other hand, don’t rely on Nielsen to determine the value of inventory.  So, most cable networks will sell their “locals” to DRTV advertisers who understand that while their ad may be covered up in many urban markets they will still reach some rural market viewers.

When DRMetrix is monitoring network cable, we pay particular attention to both the national and local ad breaks.  Our technology is able to discern the difference between the two, which is an industry first.  This is a very important distinction and critically important as networks price the “local” at a fraction of the cost of a “national”.  The “local” may be perceived as a good deal for DRTV advertisers if they happen to reach 20% of the viewers for 10% of the “national” rate.  When DRMetrix calculates the “spend index” for any brand, we take these valuation differences into account.  In many cases, it helps to explain why some advertisers rank lower despite having higher overall airings.

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