Direct Marketing Combined with Video

    October 8, 2007

You could be forgiven if, after listening to the excerpts of my interview on Beet.TV, you thought that my favorite television programs are infomercials. But I was trying to make a point. Infomercials, and other direct TV campaigns, have a lot to teach us about video for the Web.

Infomercials are just the latest (and longest) form of direct TV campaigns—commercials that rely on the same direct marketing principles used for direct mail and catalogs. When I was a kid (back in the 1500s), I remember listening to the breathless announcer hawking that great-granddaddy of the Cuisinart, the Veg-O-Matic. ("It rices, slices, and dices"—and just look at the prices.)

Whether you wanted to cut up vegetables, or go fishing with the Popiel Pocket Fisherman, Ron Popiel and other TV pioneers showed how to do direct response on TV with those two important words, "Call now." (Or "Call now and get, free, an ice crusher. But even that’s not all…")

So why are these techniques important for Web video? Because they at least show one way to combine direct marketing with video. Now, I don’t think the breathless copy pitching Chia Pets and other TV direct order classics is appropriate for most businesses, but we do need to think about video as producing measurable response.

So what kind of videos should your company produce? Well, here is a purchase I really want a video for. I like the Verizon cell phone network and I am ready to move up to e-mail and web surfing when I replace my five-year-old phone. The iPhone looks nice, but I would have to switch to AT&T and its slower data network (and its service in my area wasn’t as reliable as Verizon’s when I used to use it). So, I’ve been waiting for Verizon to come out with a phone that I thought I could use—I especially want a QWERTY keyboard big enough for my clumsy fingers to tap out e-mails, text messages, and blog entries while on the run.

So, I was intrigued when I heard about the new Voyager phone from LG. But I want to see it. If Verizon had a video demonstration on their Web site, they might have signed me up on a waiting list for when the phone becomes available. But they didn’t—just some Flash animation that showed the phone moving around.

I ended up looking on blogs to see the phone in action. And the bloggers don’t really care, so there’s no way for Verizon to know that watching a video was a real convincer for me. That’s the old way. Blast out advertising and PR and see if sales go up. Exactly what you did that worked—who knows?

If Verizon produced a video demo of their new phone and linked that to a sign up list of interested customers, then they be using video for direct marketing. Some things just need to be seen, and I will want to see it in the store when it is available, but in the meantime, watching a video was very persuausive. Maybe next time, Verizon will be the one doing the persuading (and the counting) so that they know which messages are most effective.