Scrappy DTC Brands See TV as an Opportunity to Reach New Audiences in the Pandemic

Roughly half of new television advertisers in the first half of the year were direct-to-consumer companies

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Ecommerce brands are exploring television ads for reaching consumers that are stuck at home. ChefBoyRg
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While many brands have been focused on cutting costs during the pandemic, a new generation of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands saw an opportunity to reach a captive audience via their televisions.

More than 1,200 DTC brands this year to date, beginning in March, are new to television and are in full experimentation mode, according to Sean Muller, CEO and founder of TV ad measurement firm iSpot.tv. In fact, more than any other TV advertising category, “the whole direct-to-consumer sector continues to show growth,” including in fourth-quarter holiday-themed spending, said Peter Olsen, evp of ad sales at A+E Networks.

Some companies that began airing ads include men’s apparel brand Mack Weldon, shapewear marketplace Shapermint and athleisure brand Vuori. According to iSpot.tv, Mack Weldon has spent $1.87 million on TV this year, Shapermint has spent $1.2 million and Vuori, which started TV advertising most recently, has spent $310,000.

Muller cited the pandemic—which boosted sales of these digitally native brands while increasing the flexibility of TV ad pricing, commitment and placement—as the driver behind the influx of DTC companies. He also pointed out that these newer entrants have already seen the success that more mature DTC brands such as Carvana and Chewy have had by advertising on TV.

“Earlier in the year, we saw a steady increase in demand for our products, driven partially by the increase of people working remotely and the shifting preference for casual wear,” said Alieu Fye, Mack Weldon’s senior director of performance marketing and acquisition. “This increase combined with a pullback in marketing spend from many retailers and businesses gave us some flexibility to expand into new areas to reach new customers.”

For all three brands, the main goal was to connect with more people in a cost-effective way, which is particularly important during a pandemic.

“The natural response may be to pull back for both the advertiser and for the customer on items with a higher price point,” said Nikki Sakelliou, Vuori’s vp of marketing. “People are spending more time at home than ever, and it felt like a great opportunity to invest in as part of our advertising strategy.”

Prior to the pandemic, Vuori was more focused on direct-response advertising on social. But through advertising on TV, it could reach a larger audience with more in-depth brand and product storytelling, said Sakelliou. Vuori’s motto, “Built to move in, styled for life,” served as the starting point for the creative.

“We wanted to be direct with our messaging but also ensure the feeling of the brand came through at the same time,” Sakelliou said.

Shapermint’s thinking was along the same lines.

“As our brand grows, it’s important to aim to reach the audience through multiple mediums with different communications to build the recognition and to reach new audiences,” said CMO and co-founder Massimiliano Tirocchi.

For all three startups, the results thus far are promising.

In August, Shapermint began broadcasting its ad campaign “Feel Like the Masterpiece You Are” on national television networks such as TLC, Hallmark, MTV, Bravo, E! and Lifetime. Site visitors who came from TV grew from 19% at the end of September, up from 10% in June, and also increased overall traffic, Tirocchi said. The shapewear brand also learned customers trusted the brand more because of its television presence.

Mack Weldon is also encouraged by its foray into television. It began airing ads during the first week of June on a number of channels and platforms including Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, Viacom and Hulu. According to Fye, the brand saw a 5% increase in site traffic, a number that has fluctuated depending on testing, but has steadily increased with the approaching holidays.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 16, 2020, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@RichCollings richard.collings@adweek.com Richard Collings is a retail reporter at Adweek.
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