Station Breaks

Rising Above the Crowd

With consumers being bombarded by advertising messages every day, DRTV infomercials, short form spots (one minute to two minutes in length) and advertising on home shopping channels are effective ways to grab some attention for your product.

"The aim of an infomercial is to educate the public on what a particular product does," says Nokes. "When you do a TV infomercial, you can sell 10, 20, 30 times the amount of product you could [otherwise]. You can get the word out much quicker."

Infomercials introduce new products, drive retail sales, generate leads and create brand awareness. Most last for 28 minutes, and occasional breaks give viewers the chance to call a toll-free number to order the product or receive additional information. Most infomercials air late at night when the price of air time is lower. They make up for their mainly nocturnal existence through repetition and longevity; many play night after night on the same channel. According to the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA), in 1997, $75 billion worth of products were sold through infomercials and other DRTV mediums.

Short-form direct-response spots generally air after the longer infomercial has reached the end of its run. Much cheaper to produce and air than the long form, the main purpose of the shorter spot is to maintain consumer awareness of the products advertised in a longer infomercial.

Another option for DRTV advertisers is approaching home shopping channels like Home Shopping Network and QVC. These channels use live spokespeople to pitch and demonstrate products to loyal and enthusiastic viewers who are accustomed to buying products seen on TV. According to the ERA, QVC alone sells $4.5 billion worth of merchandise annually.

In reality, only a small minority of consumers actually call the advertised toll-free number to purchase the products; instead, most wait until the product hits the shelves of local retail stores. "Direct-response TV ads only account for 9 percent of all sales of an advertised product," says Anand Khubani, president of wholesale operations for TeleBrands. "While we generate a revenue stream through direct TV, we're actually more interested in building a huge, pent-up demand for the product in the retail marketplace. Since we know that 91 percent of consumers prefer to purchase the products at a retail outlet, we first demonstrate the product on direct TV to create consumer awareness and demand. Then a few months after the ads go off the air, we start shipping to retail stores like Target, Kmart and Wal-Mart."

According to DRTV Expo & Conference, a Fairfield, Connecticut DRTV marketing company,
13 million adults in the United States--nearly 6 percent of the population--bought at least one item from a TV offer in 1996. That's a lot of consumer awareness.

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This article was originally published in the September 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Station Breaks.

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