Following an increasing trend among agencies, technology specialist M/C/C employed the Internet to conduct focus group research for new client U.S. Dial Tone.
The Dallas shop will mount a $42 million campaign in August to launch the San Antonio-based telephone company nationally.
U.S. Dial Tone provides local and long-distance service to residential customers, offering them the additional ability to select and monitor their accounts online. U.S. Dial Tone will operate in 11 states by year's end and expand to 26 in 2001.
M/C/C needed a quick turnaround of data collection and analysis after wresting the account from Austin, Texas-based Makos Advertising, Marketing & Design in an unsolicited pitch. Conventional market research methods would have taken about six weeks to complete.
"We were facing a time crunch," said James Florez, vice president of account service at M/C/C. "If you lose the window, you may lose the war because technology moves so fast. We were really able to crunch down the time and it also generated better data."
M/C/C identified three distinct target segments from more than 1,000 respondents: people concerned with manageability and control of services; those enamored with the Internet; and consumers concerned with the cost factor.
"Identifying the three groups influences where we place the ads," said Florez. "This method gives us a better feel of the qualitative data, the passion points on which to hook your creative."
Internet research was also more cost effective at $18 per interview versus $40 per phone session.
"The Internet survey would have bought [only] 400 phone interviews and it was done in a third of the time," said Bob Graham, M/C/C's director of account planning. "And the response rate was a lot higher than a phone survey. It would have taken 10,000 calls to generate 1,000 responses."
Robert Mahler, president and chief executive at U.S. Dial Tone, likened the Internet strategy to "a rifle approach rather than a shotgun approach."
"We have a six-month window to establish a good brand," Mahler said. "We know who to target and how. And we know that we are not wasting our marketing dollars."
The Internet is being used increasingly to conduct market research, according to Joe Welch at Syndics Research. The Dallas firm conducted M/C/C's survey using one of the many national panels of Internet participants.
"It's particularly good when you want to show people a concept or an image," said Welch.
M/C/C did just that for another client, using both telephone and Internet interviews.
Respondents were contacted by phone, then electronic files of advertising concepts for M/C/C client InterVoice-Brite were e-mailed to them during the interview. This allowed controlling when respondents viewed particular images.
Carol Wingard, vice president of marketing and communications at InterVoice-Brite, a Dallas-based call automation systems company, said, "We had three advertising concepts and found that one, much to our surprise, fell flat on its face. It was a very cost-effective way to test our advertising campaign."
The Internet also solved the difficulty of showing campaigns to customers spread across the country, she said.
InterVoice-Bright's $1 million campaign rolls out this month in trade journals.
"We are marketing on a one-to-one basis with the aid of mass communication," said Michael Crawford, president at M/C/C, of the new use of the Internet. "[We are] brand- building from the customer up to the company rather than the company forcing products and services on the customer. The days of people buying version 3.0 of something just because they bought version 2.0 are long gone."