The complexity of the direct response infomercial medium dictates that we as media buyers understand project management as well as media. This includes production, fulfillment, outbound telemarketing and retail. We work closely with the inbound telemarketing company, receiving the results of the time aired on a daily basis. Each call is allocated to the appropriate television station time period, and this information becomes the tracking report from which we either buy more time, cancel time or negotiate a lower rate and/or bonus time.
It is essential that corporate advertisers realize that buying infomercial time is different from buying television spot time, and not to assume that buying infomercial time can be done efflciently by their traditional advertising agency media departments. Buying infomercial time is based on different parameters; it is high volume and requires immediate action.
Media expenditures on successful infomercial campaigns can exceed one million dollars per month. A company with several successful products running will result in five to ten million dollars of airtime a month to be negotiated, billed, trafficked, placed and constantly revised based on overnight results. One change in a program will start the process all over again for every half hour that is on the air.
Traditional media buyers use program audience research in media planning, buying and analysis. Planning and buying infomercial time, on the other hand, is based on knowledge of station strength and audience delivery. It is negotiated based on actual results of other infomercials selling similar products. The only measure of success for infomercial time is the number of orders received when the infomercial airs, and if the time was bought at a rate that makes those orders profitable. Only an experienced infomercial media buyer has the knowledge gained from buying plenty of half hours in a variety of product categories, and can therefore judge a fair price that will profitably sell the product, as well as be profitable for the station. This knowledge is crucial in negotiating infomercial media time.
It is important to realize that ratings, while relevant, are not the sole basis for buying infomercial airtime. Studies that have compared the audience delivery of the lead-in program to the sales results of the infomercial that followed dearly show that a strongly rated leadin show does not always result in profitable sales. While we use audience figures in analyzing airtime, it has been found that station time periods that have no audience according to A.C. Nielson have generated some of the best cost per orders for infomercials. Our experience has also shown that paid programs following paid programs often perform very well. (Of course, we must be sure that competing shows do not follow one another.)
Along with accurate pricing and placement, the ability to react immediately and intelligently every morning to the results of the day before is essential to a successful infomercial campaign. Attention must be paid to every half hour that has been bought with a doser eye to the client's sales results than to how many millions of dollars are being billed. To quickly move an infomercial out of one time slot and into another takes time and effort, which costs the media company in the short run, but results in profitable growth in the long run.
As in traditional media buying, post analyzing is an integral aspect of an infomercial campaign, though the measure differs. Traditional post analysis reports on estimated and actual dollars spent by market, rating points reached by market, and the resulting efficiencies achieved. Product sales are then incorporated into the media figures, and graphs of advertising to sales ratios become the measure for future campaigns.
The post analysis of an infomercial campaign, on the other hand, is a report on actual product sales and the cost of those sales for every half hour of advertising time that aired. This is done by the media company working closely with the telemarketing companies. Telemarketing reports the number of inquiries and the actual order results. A close look at these results can determine the effectiveness of the product offer. If creative changes need to be made to improve the communication of the offer, for example, the media buyer must either cancel the time bought for the infomercial, or move another infomercial into that time. The process of buying time, trafficking the revised infomercial and reacting to the order results as it airs starts all over again. Quick decision making is essential.
What we all know is that infomercials sell millions of products. In this now very competitive business, it is evident that the components necessary for success include: quality products fairly priced, and a team of intelligent and experienced infomercial advertisers with the capability to make well informed, immediate decisions. It takes a group of people working together as partners to produce the short and long term results that can mean large profits for everyone involved.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)