Lately, I have been talking to several marketers that want to test direct response television advertising for their brands. Interestingly, these companies that want to test DRTV are category disruptors, born from the Internet. These are companies founded on direct relationships with consumers established through search engines and social media.

The reasons to complement data-driven digital marketing with television are convincing. These Internet brands are faced with many challengers in the same space. It is difficult to establish a unique brand position through search. Television remains the most powerful medium for quickly communicating a message and establishing an identity.

More importantly, marketers are finding that building companies one click at a time is not achieving their goals for growth. Nielsen reports the average American still watches five hours a day. With that large an audience, television can quickly scale the reach needed to grow businesses.

Most companies are concerned with the high entry costs for television and not getting the instant ROI expected from digital channels. That’s what makes the more accountable DRTV so compelling. The opportunity to lower media costs with the assumption that the spots will generate response.

These expectations for DRTV might be misunderstood and a little high. One of the companies that I spoke with did a test of television (on their own and not with my direction). They ended up canceling after two weeks because of cost and perceived lack of performance.

Before testing television’s impact on response and acquisition, ensure your test is set up to deliver effective and measurable results. A poor test could result in mistakenly dismissing a potentially valuable channel for marketing.

Here are a few tips for an effective test:

Tip #1: Utilize Television to Its Strength—Reach

Television is a mass medium and is most efficient when used to reach a mass audience.

Digital marketers might believe that an impression delivered to a non-targeted prospect is useless and a wasted expense. Restricting reach to select areas using cable or specific homes through addressable OTT may seem to solutions for waste. However, these options reduce consumer reach while increasing media costs, impairing the benefits of television, efficiency and scale.

With your initial television test, utilize the networks, stations, and dayparts that best reach your target audience. If the results are good, you can start looking for ways to optimize your buy to drive more efficiency. If the television doesn’t drive results, at least you don’t need to second guess your media execution.

When putting together a test with the right stations and dayparts, be less concerned about Reach, Frequency, and GRPs.  Those are metrics to predict the effectiveness of a traditional television buy. If you are testing DRTV with the intent of generating response, results should be the measure of effectiveness. Do look for deals as a lower cost per spot should contribute to a lower cost per response.

Tip #2: Track All Results!

My preferred method for tracking the performance of a DRTV test are dedicated phone numbers assigned to each station. With timestamped phone number data it is possible to identify the best stations and dayparts for driving results.

However, a digital disruptor may not be set up for phone calls. They will likely want to drive response to its online sales funnel. Spot airing times and web-traffic data can be aligned to measure direct response to the ads. Establish site traffic baselines before spots begin airing to quantify traffic lift in response to television.

When tracking all resultsalso look for lift in response rates to other channels. Unlike other mediums, the awareness created by television is likely to increase response in other channels.

Quantifying the impact television can have on other channels can be done with the classic tactic of Control versus Treated. By holding out a market from a recent program, I had comparison data to quantify the lift DRTV had on other channels. The test showed a 25% increase to the direct mail response and a 50% lift in the search click-through rate.

If a control hold out isn’t possible, compare response rates from pre- and post- television advertising. The lift in response rates can be enough to support using television as a compliment to other direct channels.

Tip #3: Give DRTV Testing Some Time

Testing television for the first time is big decision. It requires company buy-in and investments of time on money to develop a spot and get it on television. The desire to show immediate success is great, however, it is a test. Results can take time to develop.

It can take a couple of weeks for a brand with limited awareness to connect with consumers.

Two weeks of frequency may be needed to build enough interest to elicit a response. It can take longer depending on your DRTV schedule.

If results are limited after two weeks consider adjusting the television schedule to test different programming.

At four weeks you should have quantified results, either direct response to the television or response lift in other channels. With results you can begin assessing the opportunities for expanding the program.

If the results are not seen in four weeks, then it might be time to suspend the program. As direct marketers know, more spending isn’t likely to improve ROI.

Because the initial test didn’t produce the desired results does not mean that television cannot work for your brand. Go back and reconsider all elements of the program including the spot, the offers, and the media buy.

Read the full article by our own Eric Osgood at Medicare Marketing strategies

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