Frequently Asked Questions About Direct Response Media
Are infomercials and direct response ads the same thing?
Yes, for the most part. Messages designed to sell directly to consumers via television come in two types: short form and long form. The long form messages are more commonly called Infomercials and are generally 30 minutes in length. The short form messages – often called Direct Response ads – are from 1 to 2 minutes long. Zephyr Media Group, and others in our industry, often lump both short and long form formats into one broad category: Infomercials Direct Response TV. Both types of messages are direct sales ads that offer a toll-free number and an Internet address to purchase a product and/or generate leads for the marketer if a service is offered.
Where do infomercials and direct response messages air?
Long form infomercials are scheduled on stations and networks as stand-alone programs in half-hour time slots and will air in time periods called Paid Programming. The time periods are primarily morning and afternoon slots during the weekend, and/or during the overnight or early morning weekday hours. Short form direct response ads are purchased and scheduled on either local television stations or national cable networks and air during normal program commercial breaks. Short form commercials can run at just about any time of day, depending on price paid and advertiser preference.
What are some of the things that I will need to plan for if I want to run a short or long form infomercial campaign?
It's a multi-step process, but one that is designed to be economically efficient. There is more involved then just grabbing a video recorder and rolling the tape to make things happen. Don't be told otherwise!
Here are a series of steps that are normally followed to bring a short or long form message to air:
- Identifying the right talent and production personnel to do the job
- Developing the program concept and outlining it
- Scripting the ad
- The actual production
- Editing and performing necessary post-production tasks
- Planning and negotiating the media schedules
- Dubbing and shipping tapes to stations and networks
- Partnering with an inbound call center to handle toll-free calls
- Creating a web presence for your prospects who prefer to order online
- Scripting and training of staff
- Setting up a connection with a fulfillment operation to process orders
- Finding a shipping mechanism to get the product to your customers
- Managing a set of data analysis tools to gauge the overall effectiveness of the campaign
While it may seem complicated, Zephyr Media Group can bundle much of what is outlined here into a neat package of services at very affordable costs. We can work with you either on all the pieces or on an a la carte basis. Talk to us about your DRTV needs!
How do I decide whether a long form infomercial or short form direct response ad is best for me?
You might help answer that question best yourself! Based on your responses to the following questions, you will be able to decide whether Short Form or Long Form will be better for you.
- Can I say all that I need to say about my product in less than two minutes and still allow time to repeat the call-in information and other necessary contact points? If so, short form can work for you.
- Do I have a low price point or low out-of-pocket purchase price that makes it easy for the viewer to act on my message and make an impulse purchase? If so, short form may be the best answer for you.
- Do I have a complicated or demonstrative message and a price point that is asking the viewer to make a sizable purchase – maybe in excess of $49 – or one that might require several monthly payments to purchase? If so, long form might be better for you.
- Is my product or service a very different or new way to deal with a problem, entertain, or make life easier? Is it a real "first-to-the-market" item? If so, long form may be a preferable choice for you.
- Do I feel I need to engage the viewer in a non-competitive, non-cluttered environment in order to persuade her or him to make this considered purchase? Does a minute or two within another program or near other advertising create the possibility that I might get lost in the shuffle? If so, then long form is the way to go.
How expensive is it to produce a direct response ad or infomercial?
It depends. As anything else having to do with creative and advertising, there are many variables in the production process, which makes quoting prices extremely difficult and undesirable. A price quote on infomercial production is best determined when a clear idea of the finished product is communicated.
Short Form, quite obviously, can be produced for much less than long form programs. And while Long Form infomercials may cost more to produce, they engage viewers who actively seek to devote time to learning about a product or service. Cost and attention/attentiveness are trade offs, as is the price of your item or service. Zephyr Media Group can help you think through the approach that best fits your budget and product/service.
Does Zephyr Media Group do infomercial production or are you just a media company?
We are primarily a media company that has extensive experience in:
- market and network selection,
- negotiation of excellent schedules and rates,
- contractual work with stations and networks,
- tracking of call-in and sales volume,
- other related tasks and important administrative duties.
But we can also get the entire direct response campaign job done for you. We have strategic alliances with other companies that allow us to provide you with the other necessary components of a direct response commercial:
- first-rate direct response/infomercial production
- telemarketing expertise
- website creation and design
- quick fulfillment capabilities, etc.
What if I have my infomercial production completed already or have an existing arrangement in place? Will Zephyr Media Group do business with me?
Yes! Zephyr Media Group is flexible to its clients' goals and needs. We make it a priority to arrange the best type of working relationship that is most beneficial to you. With our wide range of services, the best media planning and placement operation in the business, excellent negotiating expertise and extensive relationships with prominent industry players- we can help you with any component of your campaign.
Should I test my direct response ad program first? And for how long?
Yes, we recommend that you test your campaign for at least several weeks, using a modest degree of scheduling frequency. You'll need to use the aggregate data from the test-run in order to assess the impact your message is having. The feedback will help to determine whether your campaign is fine-tuned or not, whether you should adjust your pricing, or- in extreme cases- make significant changes in the message and/or production. The key is message frequency: you must run your direct response effort often enough during a test phase to see if it resonates with prospects and viewers.
Can you test my call center activity?
Absolutely. There are daily reports put forth by the call center that provide real insights into how callers and viewers are responding to the TV offer. It determines how well the call agents process the calls, deal with the callers, can sell other related product offers, etc.
Do you use certain local markets to test a direct response TV campaign?
No. Generally we test direct response campaigns on national cable networks because they provide the best testing base. They can be selected for targeted audiences by age, gender, income level, etc., while offering vast economies of scale versus local market TV.
How expensive is it to purchase media time?
Media costs – like production costs – vary widely. Media time costs differ by time of day, time of year, ratings of the programs during which the ads air (for short form), and the size and "quality" of the market. For this reason, it is better to lay out the parameters of a theoretical buy, agree on the components, and obtain sample market pricing in order to build the foundation of a real media plan. Zephyr Media Group will work with you to insure that the media time estimates we establish are accurate reflections of market conditions.
Can one buy a direct response ad schedule without paying regular media costs?
There are ways to buy media time on networks and stations that do not require the outlay of upfront cash. Stations and networks will sometimes offer to sell commercial space for short form ads on a "per inquiry" (PI) basis. The airtime for a PI ad is paid for with a percentage of the sales revenue generated by that ad. This revenue-sharing arrangement requires the station or network to have access to verified information from the advertiser's telemarketing logs and records. A major drawback to PI advertising is the limited clearance: stations only run PI ads when and where they can't sell the time to someone else willing to pay cash for TV time. This severely restricts when you might air, if at all. Negotiating something similar for long form infomercials is a bit more problematic. Zephyr Media Group is not a proponent of per-inquiry advertising for most DRTV campaigns.
How long can I air my ad before I have to consider creating a new one?
If you have a well-made direct response ad that has been tested carefully, it could stay on the air for quite a while! Many infomercials run for several months and continue to be effective selling tools. Some of the better long form ads have been in the market for several years, with only the offer, price, or select terms changed to reflect current opportunities. Short form messages can show excellent staying power as well, and can be easily modified with low-cost production tweaks.
Why do you suggest I use a separate Internet site/URL for a direct response campaign?
So we can accurately identify which leads or sales you generate on the Internet are the direct result of the TV campaign. Direct response TV is all about measurement and accountability- we want to know exactly how well your message is doing and what specific traffic it is driving to the phone number or web site.
How do inbound call centers work? Can't I just use my own agents to handle this?
Inbound call centers are companies that are skilled in working with callers and making sales. Call centers charge a set up fee, which covers their upfront costs, training the agents, writing the telephone script,etc. Then they charge you on a per-minute basis for the calls handled or on a commission basis. It is important to use a call center as opposed to one of your own agents because call centers specialize in understanding how to sell your product or service, unlike your own customer service operator. We can work with you to determine the best cost options for your situation.
How do fulfillment houses work? Can't I just ship product myself?
Fulfillment houses specialize in TV sales shipping. You can self-fulfill if you have the ability to warehouse your product, can arrange to interact electronically to process orders from the call center, and ship in a timely fashion. However, the costs of working with a fulfillment house are surprisingly affordable, and can even make you a modest profit in certain situations. We can work with you to identify what's best for your situation.
What if I have a great idea, have patented or protected it, but need funding to get it manufactured and marketed? Can Zephyr Media Group help me?
While Zephyr Media Group is a not a funding, investing, or licensing company, we do have relationships with firms that are in those businesses. Capital may be available to bring your idea to market, provided your product is found to be unique, compelling, marketable and potentially profitable. If you're willing to share a portion of your sales and profits in exchange for access to funding, we're willing to see if we can find you help. Let us know what your situation is.
Do the sources of capital you know license product? How do they work?
Funders and investors operate in different ways, depending upon their business model. Some will license product, others provide funds for media testing and buying only. Others are interested in percentage-of-sales and "back end" profit participation. Contact us and we'll give you more details.