Eicoff Mentions

3 Ways to Get an Optimal DRTV and Video Mix

bill mccabeHow can direct response marketers balance TV and online video? 

Many marketers take a simplistic approach to balancing their direct response television (DRTV) and online video advertising—an approach that can create unbalanced and poor results. Typically, they subscribe to two guiding principles:

The best formula for finding the proper balance is the one that guides every DRTV advertiser: core measurements.

• Approximately 5 to 10% of their DRTV budget is devoted to online video based on current video viewing trends

• Repurposing effective TV spots for online use is an easy, cost-effective way to fill the 5 to 10% online video slots

          Both of these principles are valid, generally speaking. Unfortunately, the specific situations direct marketers face can invalidate them. Offer types, target markets, previous results from TV-only buys and other factors can and should be considered before relying on any type of television/online video formula.

         In fact, the best formula for finding the proper balance is the one that guides every DRTV advertiser: core measurements. The real guiding principle for balance should be testing and measuring. You may discover that you achieve the best results when you load up on specific cable station buys at certain times, and that the online video strategy only works on pre-roll video that runs on one particular site. Or, conversely, you may find out that you obtain outstanding results from the two-minute spots you run in an online banner ad and that you should be shifting more of your dollars in that direction.

         Similarly, you may learn that reducing your highly effective two-minute DRTV spot to 30 seconds for use in pre-roll video renders it ineffective. It may take a bit of testing and measuring before you figure out that you need to create a dedicated video spot for online video; or that you can use your existing spot but have to test different versions before you determine which one is best suited for digital purposes. The balance between television and online video is delicate rather than predetermined, and it takes time and testing to get it right.

         Beyond this overarching rule, here are some recommendations that we've found to be useful in finding the optimum mix of television and online video:

Seek the balance within the balance. This may sound Zen-like, but what I'm suggesting is that you have to dig deeper than balancing television and online video. Within television, myriad options exist in terms of spot lengths, creative execution, types of channels, types of programming, times of day, and frequency. Within online video, the choices are even more numerous: pre-roll video versus banner, matching the video spot to the site, and choosing interactive options such as ad-selectors, expandable units, and overlays. Rely on experts who are experienced in all these options to help you test and select what works best in each medium.

Make sure to retain the call-to-action element in online video. When marketers attempt to transition a television spot to online video, this element can be lost. Sometimes, they take a two-minute DRTV spot and chop it to fit the 15-second or 30-second pre-roll video requirement and edit out the call-to-action. Other times, they create an original spot for online video that lacks this motivational element. Even veteran DRTV advertisers can make these mistakes. Learning how to create effective 30-second spots that motivate consumers to click is a relatively new art, and if this art isn't mastered, marketers will forsake online video because results are poor. They'll create an imbalance because they don't recognize their online spots lack a strong call-to-action.

Factor the target audience into your balancing strategy. Let's say you're going after a narrow demographic: men between the ages of 55 and 66 who exercise regularly and live in cold-weather states. Though cable's growing diversity has helped direct response advertisers target with precision, online video is even more granular. You can buy data sets that allow you to place online video and find just the right match between your offer and a given site's audience. Conversely, if your target market is large and undifferentiated, then focusing most of your media dollars on TV may make sense.

          All of these recommendations come with my earlier caveat: Testing and measurement should be the ultimate guides. If you've been running all your DRTV advertising on a single cable station and only during weekend afternoons, you may have an unbalanced approach. But if your cost-per-order is extremely low and your results are extremely high, who cares?

          Unfortunately, most of us aren't in this position, so we need to keep experimenting with different TV and online video creative and media strategies, measure the results, and shift the balance accordingly. Then repeat.

Bill McCabe is president and CEO of A. Eicoff & Company, a DRTV agency he has called home for the past quarter century. The Illinois resident began his career in Eicoff's media department, served as SVP of business development for seven years, and as COO for two-and-a-half years before being named to his current position about three years ago. He can say that he was pivotal in building the agency into what it is today by bringing in powerhouse clients, embracing innovation, and sticking to core values. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign grad says that keeping the momentum going in a what-have-you-done- for-me-lately industry is one of the biggest challenges he faces. When it comes to picking which local baseball team to root for—the Cubs or the White Sox—McCabe says it's an easy decision: “The one who has won a World Series in the past 100 years.”

Getting Generation Me to DRTV

remote aimed at TVMy favorite self-descriptor, “couch potato,” may soon be antiquated. Media consumption is now as likely to occur in bed, my home office, back porch, or on the train as it is my cozy Ikea sofa. What does this mean for DRTV if my peers cut the cord on TV?

Marketers are a-twitter (pardon the pun) about my generation’s varied and evolving taste in media engagement. So much so Nielsen, the marketing research behemoth of record, has given me a new generational label: “Generation C.” Yet another moniker has caught on among cultural critics: “Generation Me.” If we’re not Instagramming selfies and our latest brunch entree, we’re tweeting during our favorite TV shows.

Wait! Read that last part again. Many marketers bemoan the imminent destruction of TV, fearful of the oncoming digital apocalypse being brought on by Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. True, many Millennials have unplugged the cable box entirely. Yet, Nielsen’s Generation C constitutes 23% of television viewership, a disproportionate volume considering population size! Most users who partake in digital video do so in addition to, not in place of, traditional TV.

Furthermore, Millennials are the most likely cohort to clutch their smartphone or tap away at a laptop while watching TV. Nielsen recently demonstrated that these behaviors, labeled multi-screen viewing, may produce increasingly loyal viewers, than “traditional” TV viewers. Broadcasts with high volumes of tweets during their premieres can pull in more viewership. And programming has caught on: Fans of The Bachelorette can watch fellow viewer’s tweets flicker across the bottom of the screen just below the TV romance.

One last difference between traditional TV viewing and digital highlights a particular advantage of DRTV. Digital viewers are more likely to binge watch entire seasons of shows at once. Sounds an awful lot like “nontent,” a DRTV staple, to me. When I can pause my fourth episode of Toddlers & Tiaras in a row, why not pick up the phone to respond to a well-targeted DRTV ad?

In fact, astute marketers will recognize that television and digital aren’t mutually exclusive but dynamically synergistic.  They’ll capitalize on the synergies by doing the following:

Use television spots to incentivize responses via social media and mobile technology, offering premiums to viewers who use digital media to order.
Develop media strategies that place offers in shows most likely to be binge-watched.
Create apps that are designed to work in conjunction with offers in commercials.

I posit that the coming shift in TV behavior demonstrates not our impending doom as marketers, but increased opportunity for consumer engagement, particularly with DRTV. The concepts that make DRTV a high-ROI marketing avenue for marketers on traditional TV are only set to expand with increased digital viewership.


Maura Foley is a researcher for A. Eicoff & Co, focused on developing skills in data analysis, programming and statistics. She is well-versed in the conceptual and technical framework of quantitative social research in academia and the private sector. 


TV and Digital Video: Match Made In Media Heaven

cross platformAdvertising pundits tend to talk about television and online video as an either-or choice.  In fact, it’s much more productive to discuss them from a “both” perspective.

Unfortunately, people often overreact when they see stories like a recent one that appeared in Forbes, headlined, “Brands Moving Budgets from TV to Online Video.” A closer reading reveals that this movement is much slower and less significant than the headline suggests.  But the damage has been done.  It seems as if you don’t cast your lot with digital, you’ll be hopelessly behind the times.

In fact, savvy advertisers recognize the rise of digital combined with television’s growing efficacy represents a tremendous opportunity.  The ability to find the right balance between advertising on various screens -- television, mobile, tablets, laptops -- can create synergies.  Cross-platform advertising is the next great wave—a wave that some early adopters are already surfing.

What are they doing, exactly?  Three things:

Adopting a “video” campaign and budget mindset.  This means incorporating TV, online, mobile and connected TV. While each screen requires a different approach, everything should roll up to a total video campaign that is planned to get the most out of the budget.

Creating better measures.  A traditional television spot is measured by Nielsen metrics.  A digital ad’s success rests on impressions, click-through and other response metrics.  What we really need to know is what happens when you switch $3 million from the television budget to online advertising.  What happens to overall reach, frequency and response metrics? Nielsen’s relatively new XCR product provides that measure -- and invariably, other emerging products will as well.  Forward-thinking advertisers are constantly monitoring the results generated through television and digital and using the latest analytics to find the right balance between the two.

Knowing when to get interactive.  For television, this may mean inserting an overlay that viewers can click on and bypass the more time-consuming response vehicles.  In digital, there’s a wide variety of interactive options including ad-selectors, expandable units and overlays.   This interactive tool can pay dividends, but it’s also something that should be used strategically rather than reflexively. 

Cross-screen video advertising is in its infancy, so there’s still a steep hill to climb.  To climb it with speed and strong results, though, every advertiser needs to test -- and then test some more.  Most initial studies show spending 5% to 10% of the “total video” budget in digital video will yield the strongest overall campaign.  Those figures vary by client and objective but are a good starting point for most.

The more you test and measure various combinations of television and online video, the more likely you’ll discover the right cross-platform approach for your specific offer.

Direct Response TV's Secret Weapon: The "HI" Factor

hifactorWhen it comes to closing the deal, direct response TV advertising may have a distinct, yet not often considered advantage—the Human Interaction or "HI" factor.

For decades, 1-800 numbers were the universal signature of DRTV. Then the Internet changed everything. Every week televisions are becoming smarter and more social—and the direct response landscape is evolving to use interactive ads, landing pages, text-to-respond, and more. These new and evolving direct response channels beg the question: “Is the 800 number relevant anymore?” As a Web-savvy consumer, your knee-jerk reaction may understandably be “no.”  Why call someone when you can shop online and pay via PayPal or credit card? Dialing a 1-800 number seems so antiquated.

Not so fast. Many organizations that utilize direct response TV advertising within their marketing mix have confirmed, despite the efforts to make online shopping more personalized, it's still not all that personal. Certain products and services require more than bullet points and a “Buy Now” button to complete a sale. What's missing from online shopping is the human interaction; a real person to talk to, with a real voice and a real name. That's exactly what a 1-800 number can provide.

The HI factor gives customers more than actual conversation—it gives them one-on-one guidance. For example, many companies utilize direct response ads to increase enrollments and memberships. These require detailed forms to be filled out correctly and completely. But in reality, some customers get sidetracked and never finish the online forms, or they may not click “submit” at the end. By having a real person guide and assist them over the phone, more enrollment forms are completed and more customers are enrolled.

The 800 number isn't the only way companies can tap into the “HI” factor. For example, Web-based businesses of all shapes and sizes are taking advantage of online chat systems that provide customers with immediate access to help. You've likely shopped on a website and after browsing for a few seconds had a pop-up window ask, “Want to chat?” This is because dot-coms know that the second they can start chatting with you, the less likely you'll be to leave their website and shop elsewhere. An online chat system also allows customers to multitask while waiting. Now businesses can answer your questions, tell you more about their products, and, most importantly, create a paying customer far more quickly.

In today's world where everyone wants and needs to gain and maintain a competitive edge, the ability to offer any type of real human interaction can help businesses rise to the top. The key is to give customers someone who can immediately walk them through a sale if they become confused or have a question that can make or break that sale.

Once upon a time, calling a 1-800 number was the universal call-to-action for direct response campaigns. As new response channels enter the game, there's still nothing that compares to the personal attention a real live human provides. In our increasingly connected world, new technologies make targeting consumers with direct marketing campaigns easier, but they don't supplant people. Instead, technology should encourage something that can never be replaced by machines—the distinct advantage of the HI factor.

Jim Madsen is a copywriter at DRTV agency A. Eicoff & Co.

Digital Video Ads: Different Goals Need Different Tactics

finger touching play button

Earlier this year, Twitter launched Amplify – a clever program that enables TV networks to extend their live broadcasts onto Twitter with targeted, real-time in-Tweet video clips from the shows people are watching. And just like TV, these clips include three-to-seven seconds of pre-roll advertising.

As you can imagine it would, Twitter’s Amplify program is gaining traction with advertisers. In recent weeks, Twitter has announced major network partnerships–like CBS, Viacom and BBC Global News.

For brands looking to create a new level of awareness, running a few seconds of pre-roll is a smart idea, particularly for on-the-go mobile customers. A recent eMarketer article entitled, “Video Advertising Beyond the Top of the Funnel,” stated, “When marketers determine their goals for digital video advertising, top-of-the-funnel awareness is almost always their main focus.” In fact, awareness topped the list for nearly 95 percent of respondents.

Marketing Objectives

Consequently, brands are placing the importance of “customer acquisition” and “lead generation” further down their lists of online video marketing objectives. This seems to be a clear indicator that digital video ads can be utilized for more than just awareness.

While this may be true, moving the list of priorities from “customer acquisition” and “lead generation” to “awareness” isn’t as simple as it may sound. To be successful, the ability to shift priorities also requires a shift in tactics. Let’s face it, there’s only so much you can do with three-to-seven seconds of pre-roll.

In the end, the key is integration. Creating longer spots (and by that I mean over 30 seconds, which wouldn’t be a fit for Twitter, but would be a fit for plenty of other media outlets like YouTube or news sites), and fueling them with a clear call to action — via text, website, phone, etc. — allows advertisers to both leverage and complement their Twitter pre-roll ‘awareness’ efforts to generate leads and land customers.

The ability to then test and track the response to a particular spot is another critical advantage. Video metrics are an important part of the future of advertising where ROI-savvy advertisers are headed.

Devising a strategy to create awareness is essential to any brand campaign. Executing that strategy through a well-populated channel like Twitter can be an excellent tactic.  But, that’s really just the tip of the iceberg. Advertisers should think bigger. By augmenting awareness campaigns with a focus on customer acquisition and lead generation via longer length video spots, what was originally devised to focus on awareness alone can now make a more serious impact to your bottom line.

The Realities of Reinvention

changes sign“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” should be replaced by a new saying: “If it ain’t broke, it soon will be.”

Reinvention is on the minds of every business leader for good reason.  It’s no longer heretical to think about making major, systemic changes even when things are running smoothly.  In our volatile era where it’s not unheard of for significant market changes to happen overnight, it’s almost guaranteed that today’s breakthrough strategy, product or process will soon seem like a relic of the horse-and-buggy era.

But reinvention is a problem for many business leaders.  They’re often brilliant at re-conceptualizing some aspect of their organization.  Putting that brilliant concept into practice, however, is far more challenging than it might appear.

It’s not just the nitty-gritty details of execution that thwart leaders.  It’s the fear that grips the implementers.

When you turn a hierarchical company into one with a flattened structure or when you shift from a reliance on personal selling to one that prioritizes e-commerce, you’re asking your people to take a leap of faith. Invariably, they must take risks, test new approaches and be flexible to make a reinvention work.

They’re going to be scared of making mistakes.  They’re going to be anxious about doing something in a way that feels uncomfortable or unfamiliar.

That’s why reinvention requires a strong foundation to be effective.  As much as things change, certain things must remain the same—values and culture and mission.  These organizational constants are the North Star—they provide direction and confidence even in unexplored areas.

A number of years ago, our ad agency made a major change in our media buying process, switching to a new software system of our own design.  It was a radical departure from the system that had been in place for over 30 years, and some people were understandably worried and questioning: What happens when the inevitable new system glitches surface; won’t our clients be upset when a glitch happens and it messes up a buy; how can we explain all this to our clients?

While we had specific answers to these and other questions, what really helped was reminding our people that we were reinventing a system, not the entire ad agency.  We explained that we’ve always been a company that values straight talk, and that if problems surface, be honest with clients.  We said that we’ve always prioritized building great relationships with stations reps—they’ll still be as willing to provide assistance as they were when the old system was in place.

Expressing and reinforcing foundational values and beliefs can work wonders during times of reinvention.  It’s not just they offer practical advice in times of uncertainty but they provide much needed reassurance.  In times of significant change, people need the security of knowing that some things remain the same.

Therefore, if you’re contemplating reinventing some aspect of your business, consider implementing these three “Re” tactics:

  1. Remember the qualities and values that are timeless—the core strengths that define the company.  It’s not that you’ve forgotten them, but you’re probably thinking a lot more about the reinvented organizational structure or system than these defining qualities.  If you are conscious of these qualities, you’re more likely to talk about them
  2. Remind your people about the company’s history, growth and achievements.  It’s not you want to mire them in the past as you reinvent; it’s that you want them to recognize the themes and assets that have always been in place and always will be.
  3. Recognize how a given reinvention dovetails with the company’s core beliefs.  Connecting the dots between the past and reinvented present can go a long way to diminishing the fear that some employees feel.  For instance, the new team structure will foster the open communication that has always been part of the culture.

Just as reinvention requires an act of leadership imagination, implementation requires facing some tough realities.  Your people are going to be anxious about doing something new and unfamiliar, and by rooting them in some key organizational truths, you’ll ease that anxiety and make the reinvention that much more effective.

This is the guest post by Bill McCabe, President/CEO, A. Eicoff & Co. He is CEO of Chicago-based direct response TV advertising agency, A. Eicoff & Co.

Valeant leverages Rx sales force, YouTube for OTC brand

Acne Free

Valeant sales reps started doing something different in August. In addition to talking to dermatologists about prescription medications, they also started dropping off samples of the drug maker's OTC medication AcneFree, which joined the company's portfolio with the 2012 purchase of University Medical.

VP of Marketing John Reed said the brand's clean lines and use of white—AcneFree hallmarks—also give the product a clinical feel. He said reps will be bringing the kits to the offices of around 3,600 dermatologists.

The company is also supporting the professional pitch with a consumer strategy that includes circulars and in-store promotions, as well as with YouTube's TrueView ad feature, which debuted in 2010. TrueView is a double-targeted advertising approach in that user habits help determine which ads will be served up, and the site offers the chance to opt out of the ads.

If the viewer skips out, the advertiser pays nothing. If they watch it to the end, the advertiser pays. Reed said the AcneFree video, which uses creative from the Ogilvy Group A. Eicoff & Co., has a 15.9% watch rate, meaning one in every six people chooses to watch the spot.

This is not the first time AcneFree has used YouTube, but it is the first time the brand has paid to advertise on it. Reed said the brand was sold on the TrueView pay-only-when-watched feature because of the pay structure and the targeting, which he said “reveals the relevance of the product itself to the viewer.” Reed also noted that viewers who watch the ad tend to click through to seek out places to buy the product.

Google's research—Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006—indicates an added benefit: better brand recall when products are advertised on both YouTube and TV. Using one or the other has about an equal impact on consumer memory, but Google's number crunchers found that recall doubled when a brand ran both a 15-second YouTube spot and regular TV commercials.

Google National Industry Director of Healthcare Ryan Olohan said the ads resonate with direct and indirect consumers—for example, a mom may opt-in to view the AcneFree commercial as well as a teen. The company's stats also indicate visitors watch 6 billion hours of videos every month. “It's not just teenagers,” Olohan said, a truth Valeant's Reed said is reflected in the AcneFree data.

Olohan told MM&M that visitors who watch the TrueView ads are “raising their hand and saying, ‘I am suffering and want help.'” The appeal of the invested consumer is clear, but the feature and potential marketing impact is part of a larger YouTube transformation from what Olohan said was a place to watch “dogs on skateboards,” to becoming a tool users are using like a lifestyle search engine that goes beyond entertainment.

His evidence: 40,000 videos that feature diabetes-friendly recipes and an unbranded atrial-fibrillation video from 2012 that has been viewed more than 3 million times. The Afib video links the website 15everyhour.com, which is supported by Boehringer Ingelheim, the National Stroke Association and the Heart Rhythm Society, among others.

DRTV: Not Just For Shilling Anymore

fireballScene: A co-worker’s going-away lunch. A guy, I’ll call him Ned, is rounding up suckers, er…colleagues, to indulge in something called a “fireball” (one would think the name would be warning enough). Now, Ned can sell. It’s in his DNA. He coaxes and cajoles, entices, overcomes objections, etc., and the next thing I know, a Fireball is on its way down my gullet. It is the foulest thing I have ever imbibed. It ruins the rest of my day. I can’t get the taste out of my mouth. I want to punch him.

Stay with me here. My point is this: Direct response television (DRTV) advertising can sell, too. “Free!” “Limited Time Offer!” or a myriad of other phrases followed by exclamation points will make the phone ring or the website light up. No doubt about it. And if that’s all you’re looking to do, have at it. But, you’re probably not getting your money’s worth.

The scope of DRTV has expanded beyond the quick sale. Done right, even the hardest hitting DRTV commercial can create a connection with consumers — not just weasel a purchase out of an unwitting viewer. Which is why, more and more, you see DRTV campaigns from Fortune 500 companies using longer length commercials to inform, educate, demonstrate and sell using highly targeted ads that appeal to the right audience, at the right place and at the right time. DRTV can create loyal customers who might even tell their friends or post a positive review online. It can do more than generate a transaction. It can help build a brand.

So how do you take advantage of this new and improved approach to DRTV?  Three ways:

1. Treat viewers like educated consumers rather than gullible marks. Create a spot in which you sell via useful information and clearly articulated benefits rather than hype.

2. Build the brand into every creative decision. The actors, the production values and the script should all tell the brand story as well as sell the product.

3. Use the spot to create a long-term connection. Drive viewers to websites and social media, and add their names to the database.

Yes, like Ned, DRTV can sell like crazy. But, forget trying to simply shyster your way into a consumer’s heart because, much like the Fireball, it will undoubtedly leave a bad taste in their mouth.

Media Buying: As Easy As Pie?

Pie“As easy as pie?”

I've always wondered about the origin of this phrase, because pies aren't especially easy to make. The process is part science, part art -- not altogether different from media buying.

Did I just compare buying media to making a pie? Indeed I did.

Working for an ad agency that has been in the business for more than 50 years and coming from a long line of pie makers, I feel this is an analogy I am qualified to make.

For example, with a pie, you begin with a scientific formula (commonly known as a recipe). It tells you what ingredients to use and how much of each. It then provides a step-by-step set of instructions. If followed correctly, these instructions will yield a perfect (maybe even an award-winning) pie every time.

Of course, if you believe that, I have some prime TV time I’d like to sell you.

The truth is -- you might get a decent result by following a recipe “to the T,” but you’re not going to collect any major hardware at the National Pie Championships. Not by a Betty Crocker long shot.

Why? Because there’s another ingredient needed that you won’t find in any recipe: experience.

Anyone off the street can follow a recipe. But you simply cannot underestimate the experience of the person wearing the apron. The baker still has to use judgment about possibly adding more flour on humid days, letting the dough rest in the refrigerator for longer than the recipe requires (if it's not coming together well), or even knowing exactly when to take the finished pie out of the oven.

The same approach to pie making can be applied to the art of media buying. Start with a recipe – in this case it would ideally be a wealth of data from a very sophisticated database and buying system. Then apply a hefty amount of experience and good judgment.

Here is an example of how this media-buying recipe might work. Let’s say a client airs a direct response spot during the midday news and it doesn’t achieve the desired cost per response. Was it because it was a slow news day? Was it because Dr. Oz -- running at the same time on a different channel -- had a major celebrity as a guest and drew viewers away from the news? Or was this a sign of a downward trend, which should trigger a negotiation for lower rates with the station immediately?

It takes an experienced buyer to interpret data like this and ensure the final decisions will net in “pie in the sky” results. And the more experience a buyer has, the better his or her judgment will be. That experience can lead to knowing what’s wrong without spending hours or even days checking numerous data points. Intuition is a result of deep experience, and so she can intuit right away whether Dr. Oz is at fault or a downward trend is the culprit. Her hunches might not be 100% accurate, but they’re correct far more often than not.

Let me leave you with one last tip: if you want a flakier piecrust, science tells us that substituting some water with vodka really helps. And if you think you can achieve optimal media results without relying on experience and proper judgment, just like with baking a pie, you may also want to get your hands on some vodka. 

DRTV and the “Rule of Reciprocation”

giftThe Agency Post – Now more than ever before, advertisers need to give if they want to get. For years, savvy direct response TV (DRTV) marketers have used free gifts and giveaways to improve program response. They close the deal when the viewer is on the cusp.

Unfortunately, some marketers view this tried-and-true tactic as passé — a gimmick that cynical viewers won’t respond to. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in a marketplace filled with parity products, advertising saturation and comparable pricing, premiums can provide a critical edge: With one included, the program pays out; Without one, it doesn’t.

Why is this?  Some may cite greed as the explanation, but I believe the truth is much more complex.

There is a great deal of research available today about what’s known as the Rule of Reciprocation. It is a basic human behavior taught in every culture around the world. In its simplest form, this rule tells us that we are not to take without giving something back in return.

For example, according to Arizona State University Professor of Psychology Robert Cialdini, if a restaurant server brings you a check and does not include a candy on the check tray, you will tip the server whatever it is that you feel the server deserves. But if there’s a mint on the tray, tips go up by more than 3 percent and two mints improve tips by 10 percent!

This experiment shows us there is something more to reciprocation — a powerful, learned behavior that compels recipients to give something back. It prompts them to respond in some way when they agree to accept something. And because of the rule of reciprocation, that simple gift to your customer can be leveraged to help drive a sale, which proves to be many times more valuable than the relatively small initial investment that premiums require.

The first step to capitalizing on the Rule of Reciprocation is to determine if a premium can be integrated effectively into a commercial. In some instances, it isn’t appropriate. For example:

You have a “hot” offer that will work on its own, you have a tight test budget and you want to wait until the test is effective before investing in a premium or no premium will work effectively with your particular offer. In addition, some offers involve legal and compliance issues that either prohibit gifts or set a limit on their values.

The majority of the time, however, a premium is a viable option. If it is, then here are three tips to increasing the efficacy of the Rule of Reciprocation:

• Dovetail the premium/gift with the offer. If you’re advertising an upscale product, for instance, you don’t want to offer a seemingly cheap premium. More than that, you want it to feel organic in relation to the offer. If your DRTV spot is for a high-ticket piece of exercise equipment, then a top-tier exercise mat might be a complimentary item.

• Position the premium as value-added. In other words, you want the commercial to create the perception that the item enhances the value of the advertised product or service. If you’re running a spot for a bicycle, the premium might be a chain-cleaning kit.

• Make a convincing pitch for the premium. In other words, don’t treat the gift as an afterthought. I’ve seen spots where the premium offer is made in a hurried way at the end of the spot. Creatively, it seems like a crass come-on more suitable to a carnival barker than a brand-conscious advertiser. Make sure you allocate enough time in the spot for the premium pitch and that you treat it with the same respect as you do the advertised offer.

Following this advice is relatively easy and inexpensive, and it can create the type of viewer reciprocity that advertisers dream about — the type where they feel compelled to respond with a click or a call.


Scott Ballew is a Management Supervisor at A. Eicoff & Co., one of North America’s largest DRTV agencies.

Read original article here.

Bill McCabe interviewed on CEO IntroNet

CEO IntroNet, an online TV show that provides interviews with CEOs, Presidents, Executive Directors, Managing Partners and other chief decision makers across geographical and industry boundaries, interviews A. Eicoff & Co. CEO, Bill McCabe on the company's unique approach to ROI and the unique value it provides clients. The interview touches on the future of DRTV and the advertising industry as a whole as marketers work to combine traditional and new approaches. 

"As companies become much more ROI-driven, Eicoff has been fortunate in that our philosophies and strategies fit their needs, because everything that we do via television is ROI-based."


Transcript of interview:

Welcome Bill,  you are President and CEO of A. Eicoff & Company. Tell us about your company and what it does.

Well, we are an Ad Agency based here in Chicago. Our focus as a company is working with companies that want to use television primarily as a way to generate direct sales. At the end of the day our focus is driving immediate measurable results for our clients. As companies become much more ROI-driven, we’ve been fortunate in that our philosophies and strategies fit their needs because everything we do via television is ROI-based. Whether we are doing thirty second commercials or sixty second commercials or two-minute commercials clients find that the ROI-based strategies we use are valuable to them.


Excellent. You are the third president at the Agency. What has changed since you’ve taken over?

I think frankly quite a bit. Technology has benefited what we do specifically and ultimately what our clients do. Technology via, obviously the digital space, the ability to greatly improve the analytics of what we do, and the fact that CMOs who are our primary clients are really now coming from a digital background and expect and ROI-based strategy. That’s essentially what we do, so good fit.

Chicago has a lot of different creative agencies and, obviously, your company is one of the top. Tell us how you keep the competitive edge?

Well, I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had great mentors who really have come from an entrepreneurial background. As entrepreneurs you have to continue to test new things and sometimes you fail, but you can’t be afraid to fail. I think between the ability to keep testing new things and breaking new ground, but also the ability to keep and grow good people. Our business model is about having really good people that are very good at what they do. We’ve been fortunate that, for whatever reason, what we do we’ve been able to keep and grow great talent. So we are fortunate in that.


Excellent. What's next for A. Eicoff & Company?

Well, I think as the digital space continues to grow, we just think it’s a natural evolution that what we do is going to apply more and more the digital space. What’s exciting for us is that the content we create for our clients naturally extends to the digital space.


What are some of the most pivotal moments in your career personally that’s led you to this roll?

Well again, I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors and people that have really instilled in me the ability to look both short term and long term and that it’s not all about trying to make a quick sale, it’s also about looking longterm and seeing what those implications are. Both from a business standpoint as well from a team standpoint in how we look at our business.


Bill thank you so much for being with us here today. I wish you continued success.

Thank you.

Mother Knows Best: TV Still Dominates Online In Senior Market

Senior Couple Watching TVMediaPost – Marketers see digital as the Holy Grail these days -- a better way to reach the 65+ market than that old-fashioned contraption, the television.

My Mom begs to differ.

She loves to watch television. And, although I’m in media, she thinks every DRTV spot we place was written, shot and produced by me. “I saw ‘your spot’,” she says.

So there you have it…proof positive that TV is the right place for advertisers to be.

Okay, so while my mother’s TV watching habits may not be indicative of the behavior of the entire senior market, there are other facts that support this notion.

A recent eMarketer report, “Seniors Still Lukewarm on Web Activity,” highlights that TV is still the medium that matters most, stating: “Marketers regard the 65-and-older population as a sleeping giant when it comes to digital usage. And for now, at least, the giant still mostly dozes. For media usage, TV is still the medium that matters most for seniors, far more so than for younger generations.”

Sure -- seniors are active, engaged and use the Internet. But according to the report, although many of them have mobile phones, comparatively few have smartphones. Ditto their involvement with social media.

Yet in the fourth quarter of 2012, seniors averaged almost 221 hours per month watching traditional TV -- approximately 40 percent more than the total population average.

According to SpotGenie Partners, TV will continue to dominate the senior-focused advertising media mix for years to come, saying: “Television and television advertising are not only surviving in the new media age, they are thriving.”

And the cherry on top? Growth in online ad spending won’t come at the expense of television. “In fact,” the report explains, “TV is the one medium that complements social media. It impresses and motivates its audience and ensures brand recall. TV remains the medium of choice to influence consumers and drive purchasing decisions.”

I love good quotes -- almost as much as I love my Mom.

So what is the lesson here? The senior age group is now, for the first time, the largest in terms of percent of population in the U.S. And this age group continues to grow. More people were 65 years of age and over in 2010 than in any previous census.

And what is the most advantageous way to sell to this large, TV-watching audience? Producing ads that motivate, tell a story and prompt a response. Two-minute spots are an ideal way to build your brand and explain or demonstrate your product or service. Seniors insist on a great deal of information before they make a decision. Longer, direct-response spots provide the time they require to get to know a brand and determine if it’s right for them.

Coupled with this approach, is the ability to buy the right stations at the right times. A spot targeted to the right people is an ideal, cost-effective formula for generating interest and response.

Our world today is dominated by people 65 and older. And they are watching TV -- lots of it. An advertiser's dream…if approached with the right strategies for reaching and influencing this important buying audience.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my Mom is calling. She wants to know more about one of the commercials that I wrote, shot and produced.

C’mon -- if she wants to think that, who am I to argue?

Francie Gordon is Senior Vice President, Media at A. Eicoff & Co., one of North America’s largest DRTV agencies.

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Top 7 Reasons Why July Is the Perfect Time for DRTV

by Tara Anbudaiyan

tv fireworksDirect Marketing News – The month of July is fast approaching, which means it's mid-year for your annual media efforts. While summertime isn't always viewed as the most advantageous from a television advertising perspective, you may want to rethink your strategy. Starting July with a bang can help make the second-half the strongest part of your year, particularly if your strategy takes advantage of the benefits DRTV offers in July. Here are the top seven reasons why:

1. Rates are down.

The second quarter of the calendar year is typically an expensive quarter for media rates, so many advertisers come out of sweeps having spent most of their media budget. This, and the general lack of summer holiday ad blitzes, has led media operations to lower their rates in July.

2. More ad space is available.

Another side effect of the competition's busted budget is more available ad space. More space means you can create a more robust media plan. This added frequency gives you more bang for your buck, making it perfect for product launches and new brand initiatives.

3. Viewership shifts to more affordable stations.

Summer is when many of the big network shows go on vacation but when it's also when DRTV does best via affiliates and cable channels. During the summer months, viewers gravitate to the off-season replacement shows and original programming that run on these stations. Capitalizing on this shift allows your DRTV spot to get premium attention without paying network rates.

4. Your products may be seasonal.

Summer living comes with opportunities. Your product may have new relevancy in the warmer months or as viewer habits change. School is out and children's stations are at their peak at this time, which means the summer break is a great time to target parents with family-focused products.

5. Response is up.

Much of the programming in summer months falls into a category we like to call “low involvement.” During this passive viewing, consumers are more open to engaging with DRTV's active messaging, and thus to respond.

6. It's time for your mid-year checkup.

DRTV best practices involve constant testing on a weekly, or even daily, basis. Mid-year is ripe for evaluating your campaign's performance-to-date and identifying any necessary adjustments. For a 360 degree evaluation, bring in all the key players in media, creative and telemarketing. You'll be surprised what they have to say to each other.

Here are some key questions to ask:

Telemarketing: After listening into a few calls, what questions/concerns are consumers expressing? Are the leads from your creative aptly qualified? Can these insights help drive changes to the script?

Creative: How is your control creative performing? Does any of the current messaging need to be adjusted? What is the competition doing?

Media: Are there any overages or shortages in the budget? Is the current mix and frequency working? What is the true ROI for your DRTV campaign so far? If you're only tracking calls/leads, how does conversion look down the funnel to sales?

7. There's still half the year left.

Among the many strengths of DRTV are its flexibility and quick reaction time. Using your mid-year checkup as a roadmap now can be the best time to consider producing new creative, adjusting the existing creative or media plan, and laying the strategic groundwork for Q3/Q4 and beyond.

DRTV is anything but lazy in the lazy days of summer. Making the right media moves in July can boost your media dollar and your overall campaign effectiveness.

Tara Anbudaiyan is an Account Supervisor at A. Eicoff & Co., one of North America’s largest DRTV agencies.

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Are We Asking Search to Do Too Much?

Mouse KeyboardDirect Marketing News - Search advertising is overrated. I realize this is a heretical statement in an environment where search is king. Just about every advertiser talks about the ways in which search is producing new and better leads and how it's played a crucial role in their brand strategy.

Yet search creates an illusion that it is more effective than it is in reality. This doesn't mean it shouldn't be part of the advertising process; search is very important. But when it becomes the main area of focus, advertisers rely on it too heavily and discount other advertising tactics—many times to their chagrin in the long run.

Consider why people lionize search. An individual goes to Google or another search engine and types in a brand name. The searcher ends up at the brand's website, where he or she becomes a qualified prospect or a new, paying customer.

In either case, the search professionals can demonstrate that it was search that hooked and landed the fish. In reality, however, they may have just pulled up the line that was baited by others.

In marketing, last click attribution is common. In other words, the sale goes to the last touchpoint before the customer converted. But what's often unseen by the advertiser is the winding path that led to that last click. A click and a purchase result from cumulative exposure to an advertised product or service. Prospective customers are exposed to a print or broadcast ad, often more than once; they see banner ads online for the product or service; they do research about competing products or services, triggering additional exposures to a site. The last click may be the result of paid search, but advertisers should recognize how people reached that buying point.

In the direct response television advertising business, we are well aware of the correlation between DRTV spending levels and branded search traffic. Time and again, we have documented higher levels resulting in more traffic (and lowered levels resulting in less traffic). Just as tellingly, our research shows that a significant percentage of viewers buy later rather than sooner. They don't call an 800 number or click on a website immediately after watching a spot but wait until they have more time to shop and buy. They may wait an hour, a day, or a week until they search for the advertised product (using Google to search for the product's brand name), arrive at the website in question, and make a purchase—but the impulse to do so was sown during the viewer's exposure to the television commercial. From a direct response perspective, Google is the new 800 number.

From any advertising perspective, however, it would be wise to be wary of depending too heavily on search alone, despite its enticing promise of generating high website traffic and increased business at a low cost. It used to be that advertisers bragged at cocktail parties about their brand-building advertising or their results-producing sales promotions.  Now they boast about their search optimization strategies.

Again, we're not suggesting that search is bad—we integrate search into everything we do—but that it's being asked to do too much. Instead of focusing most of their energy and budget on search, advertisers would be better served by combining traditional ad media and search analytics.

There are a number of variables that should be measured: the advertising media used, the ad spending, the search strategy, and the website ordering process, to name just a few. How many times does a given viewer need to see a commercial before he or she does a search and ends up on the advertiser's website? What is the percentage increase of clicks that occur because this viewer also saw a banner ad for the product? What creative content is most likely to motivate the viewer to buy and not just visit the site?

These are crucial questions in the age of search. If we are not able to answer them correctly, it may be we haven't yet reached the golden age of advertising the industry claims.

Bill McCabe is the President/CEO at A. Eicoff & Co., one of North America’s largest DRTV agencies.

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Response-Driven TV: the Newest Channel of Commerce

remote and tv

By: Jim Madsen

The Agency Post - In a world of time-shifted TV viewing and increased advertising accountability, is direct response television (DRTV) the future of advertising?

Stay with me.

Since the earliest days of television, direct response commercials have leveraged the technology of the times. From the USPS “send your check or money order to P.O. Box …” to the telephone “Don’t wait, call now!” to the Internet “Visit us online at …”, the evolution continues, and DRTV stands at the threshold of a giant leap forward.

Take for example the TiVo and PayPal announcement about their game-changing alignment designed to give TiVo viewers the power to buy advertised products with their remote and pay for them safely and securely through PayPal. Wow. Suddenly advertisers can turn 30-second spots and interactive TiVo placements into “actionable purchasing opportunities.” In other words, TiVo and PayPal just opened a new line to the cash register. But what it all boils down to is a new spin on DRTV.

“We see television as the newest channel in commerce,” said Scott Dunlap, vice president of emerging opportunities and new ventures for PayPal. “Teaming up with TiVo will help us connect merchants and consumers via the TV set in the fastest and safest way possible. We are excited about the prospect of delivering a more complete and seamless couch commerce experience.”

A “seamless couch commerce experience.” No doubt this evolving technology will make buying products on television as easy as everything else TiVo offers. So what are the key implications for advertisers and agencies?

Greater Levels of Accountability

Determining the success and ROI of an ad spot will be easier than ever. Measuring its response rate and actual sales via PayPal will enable advertisers to evaluate a spot’s impact more accurately. If the spot works, break out the champagne. If not, what then? Partnering with an agency that understands the nuances of direct response — and how to revise creative or media strategy quickly and effectively — will be critical.

Harder-Working Creative

Creative utilizing this technology will need to sell. Instead of generating emotion and awareness, it must motivate viewers to click the remote and take action on the spot. Advertisers may consider versioning spots. By leveraging TiVo’s targeting capabilities, multiple versions of one spot could be tailored, featuring different offers for different markets. This can make the spot more relevant and appealing to the viewer and thereby increase response rates.

Savvier Offers

Not every offer is right for a DRTV approach. The TiVo/PayPal combo will entice advertisers who have never used DRTV before to try it. Invariably, they’re going to run direct response spots for products and services that are positioned poorly for this advertising method: spots missing a product demonstration or failing to use an incentive when an incentive is crucial. Advertisers will need to develop DRTV know-how, and this is only possible through hard experience or bringing in people who know what they’re doing.

While TV has been an important channel in the digital commerce arena for years, the TiVo/PayPal alliance and other trends will attract a wider range of advertisers than ever before. For DRTV to be the future of advertising, however, advertisers and their agencies must educate themselves about the connection between the ads they create and the actions they want viewers to take. As soon as they become skilled at making this connection work, a new era in accountable, response-driven television advertising will begin.

Jim Madsen is a Copywriter at A. Eicoff & Co., one of North America’s largest DRTV agencies.

Read original article here.

Smart TVs, Smart Advertisers

smart tvs smart advertisersMediaPost - At consumer electronics events globally, much attention is being paid to the launch of “Ultra HD” televisions. Yet the real news for advertisers is coming from introductions of smart TVs, like Samsung’s “Smart Hub,” that not only allow apps to be used when watching television, but provide improved gesture and voice interactivity -- you can point with your finger or use your voice to search for content or change channels. 

In and of itself, this may not be major news, but it presages a time when smart TVs will be as common as smartphones. It may take five years or perhaps even longer, but inevitably, smart TVs will revolutionize advertising -- especially advertising that requests a response from viewers. 

Consider that in recent years, there has been a trend toward spots that include a response vehicle -- an 800 number to call or a URL to click. Those of us in the Direct Response Television (DRTV) advertising business know that conversion rates increase when viewers are able to respond quickly and easily and receive the information they seek about an advertised product or service with equal speed and facility. 

We have made quantum leaps since the early days of DRTV in improving the quality and professionalism of the 800 number response process -- service representatives are better trained and computers provider faster access to requested information. Similarly, when television commercials direct viewers to click on URLs, they may well find themselves navigating to a “dedicated” site -- one designed specifically to pay off the promise of the spot that the viewer just watched.

So the current system is highly effective. Yet we also know that two obstacles stand in the way of a call or a click: lag time and device-switching. In terms of the former, we know that if people don’t respond immediately after watching a spot, they are unlikely to respond at all. They don’t feel like calling the number on the screen or using their computer to go online for any number of reasons (they’re paying attention to the next commercial airing or the program they were watching is back on or they just don’t feel like getting off the couch). Lag time, then, is a challenge for advertisers.

So too is device-switching. While some people watch television with a phone in their hand and a computer on their lap, they are the exception rather than the rule. Some viewers are reluctant to leave one device for another.  Thus, an opportunity is missed for a response.

Now consider what would happen if people had the capacity to watch a commercial and while it’s airing say to the television:

“I’m interested; I’d like more information.” 

Instantly, they would be connected through their television to a live service representative. No lag time. No device-switching.

Imagine what else a smart TV might be capable of. During the airing of the spot, a particular feature strikes the viewer as compelling. They might say to the television: “Tell me more about your new and improved widget.” Immediately, a new sub-commercial would air, focusing on that particular widget feature.      

The possibilities are endless. For instance, let’s say a viewer is watching a car commercial and he’s intrigued by the car being advertised. He says to the television: “I’d like to test drive that car.” Thirty minutes later, a car salesperson arrives at his home with the car.

And of course, some people may not need more information to order; they may take advantage of the smart TV technology by ordering the product or service before the commercial finishes airing. 

In our industry, interactive television has been more a much-discussed concept than a reality, but as smart TVs become the norm, things will change. Samsung is clearly ahead of the game, but competitors will catch up. As technologies converge and smartphone apps translate to television, people will find it easier to respond to commercials than ever before.

When that happens, every commercial will be a direct-response one. With the capacity to respond immediately and easily to viewers, what advertiser won’t take advantage of this sales capability?

Bill McCabe is the President/CEO at A. Eicoff & Co., one of North America’s largest DRTV agencies.

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A. Eicoff & Company Growth and Increased Spend on DRTV Advertising Nationwide Signals Industry-Wide Movement to Longer, Direct Response Ads

Industry Analysis Shows 99% Increase in DRTV Spend Over Five Year Period, while :120 Spots Increased 117% over same Time-frame; Eicoff is Largest Buyer of :120 Spots Nationwide

Chicago, IL (PRWEB) March 12, 2013

Longer television advertising spots that enable marketers to tell a story, motivating viewers to respond via 800 number calls, web site clicks or store visits, are becoming increasingly important marketing channels for businesses nationwide. A. Eicoff & Company, the leader in direct response TV(DRTV) advertising, has experienced this trend firsthand, growing its business 20 percent year-over-year in 2012. This growth is in part a result of the increase in overall industry spending and usage of two-minute and direct response commercials. Overall spending on :120 commercial spots has increased 117 percent from $638 million in 2007 to $1.39 billion in 2012 according to Kantar Media. During that same time period, spend on direct response TV (DRTV) ads increased by 99 percent.

“Longer, direct response commercials enable advertisers to tell a story, increase brand recognition and most importantly, prompt target audiences to act,” said Bill McCabe, president and CEO of A. Eicoff & Company. “DRTV ads also better serve the Internet age, as they can draw viewers online to further engage. The Super Bowl is a great example, where we’re seeing more one and two minute spots containing direct response vehicles – like a URL or phone number - that let consumers strike up a conversation and really connect with the brand. As the largest DRTV ad agency and buyer of two-minute spots nationwide, we have experienced these trends firsthand and are poised to help even more clients make the transition as DRTV advertising best practices become the industry norm.”

Orders from TV Advertising on the Rise

• In correlation to the spend increase on longer, direct response commercial spots, Experian Marketing Services’ Simmons National Consumer Study shows that overall orders as a direct response from TV advertisements are on the rise.

• TV orders from a combination of online, phone and catalog increased 17 percent from the spring of 2011 to the spring of 2012 and 30 percent from spring 2006 to spring 2012.

• Online orders have increased the most significantly over the same time period, growing 23 percent year-over-year from the spring of 2011 to the spring of 2012 and 115 percent from the spring of 2006 to the spring of 2012.

• Consumer spending as a direct response to TV advertising has also increased. Experian Marketing Services reports that consumers who spend more than $1000 annually as a direct result of TV ads increased 26 percent between the spring of 2006 and spring of 2012. During this same time period, there was a 35 percent increase in consumers who spent $150-$199 annually and a 5 percent decrease in those spending less than $50 per year.

• Consumers are also spending more money online as a result of TV offers. Experian Marketing Services reports in the spring of 2006, 865,000 consumers spent over $1,000 online annually as a direct result of TV ads and in the spring of 2012 that number climbed to 1.7 million consumers, an increase of 97 percent.


A. Eicoff at the Forefront of DRTV Trend and Industry Growth

An ongoing focus on data, customer centricity and accountability has enabled A. Eicoff & Company to thrive in a changing market. Advertising industry trends, combined with Eicoff’s ability to recognize the importance of accountability in television, have led to the agency’s growth and ability to deliver results. In 2012, Eicoff business milestones included:

• 20 percent year-over-year revenue growth in calendar year 2012

• 12 new clients signed during the year, signaling ongoing adoption of DRTV best practices

• Larger, established brands like TD Ameritrade, Chase Bank, Lenovo and Genworth Financial have worked with Eicoff to establish DRTV strategies

• The design and development of Eicoff proprietary software to track real-time analytics incorporating both offline and online ad data to provide sophisticated metrics to clients

• Appointment of Bill McCabe as the agency’s new CEO – the third in the agency’s 54 years in business. McCabe was named to Crain’s Chicago Business “Who’s Who” in 2012.

• Increased opportunities for advertisers to target new markets and conduct language testing – i.e. Spanish, Polish, Asian and more – is a unique differentiator for Eicoff that drove additional business throughout 2012

To download the infographic related to today’s news, please go to http://www.eicoff.com/drtv-news/drtv-blog.

Click to Tweet: @Eicoff – New report: Research shows advertising industry shifts to longer length, direct response spots; A. Eicoff at forefront of the trend. Click to tweet:http://clicktotweet.com/a3R8j

About Experian Marketing Services

Experian Marketing Services is a global provider of integrated consumer insight, targeting and interactive marketing. We help brands from around the world intelligently interact with today’s dynamic, empowered and hyper-connected consumers. By coordinating seamless interactions across all marketing channels, we enable marketers to plan and execute superior brand experiences that deepen customer loyalty, strengthen brand advocacy and maximize profits. We call it Marketing Forward. For more information, please visit http://www.experian.com/marketingservices.

About A. Eicoff & Company

Eicoff is the largest direct response television (DRTV) agency in the country. The company was founded in 1959 by Alvin Eicoff, who understood that television had the ability to function as a store and that media rates were a negotiable commodity. The phrase “or your money back” was coined by Alvin, and the 800 number came into being, in part, because of his vision and direction for the television advertising industry. In 1982, A. Eicoff & Company became a division of Ogilvy & Mather. For more information, visit http://www.eicoff.com.

Andrea Cousens
Cousens Communications
Email Information


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Why Nontent Is Your Greatest Opportunity to Sell

Girl watching vintage TV

What is nontent? Nontent is what you watch on television when you’re not really watching anything.

Nontent is your fifth consecutive “House Hunters International” episode or another History Channel retrospective on an obscure general. Or a mindless game show. Or a “Leave It to Beaver” marathon. This is nontent. The direct response television (DRTV) advertiser’s dream.

Everybody watches nontent. If they say they don’t, they’re lying. As much as people love their favorite shows, many viewers use TV to simply unwind, relax, or zone out after a hectic day. If content is what people are yearning to spend their time watching, nontent is what they’re using to escape.  And that’s where advertisers can find their greatest opportunity to sell.

The propensity for a viewer to become a buyer goes up to the degree that their involvement in what they’re watching goes down. There’s an inverse relationship between program involvement and response. In other words, if you’re bored, you’re more likely to buy. A common term for this is “impulse buying.” This is tried and true. It’s been working for DRTV advertisers for years. In fact, it was one of the principles that Alvin Eicoff used to build his DRTV agency over 50 years ago, and it still stands today.

Facts About Impulse Buying

Consider some of the facts according to the US Department of Commerce.

    • Impulse buying is big business. It is estimated that 40% of all money spent is through impulse buying.
    • - 60% of females made an impulse purchase in 2011.
    • - 90% of people make an occasional impulse purchase, and between 30-50% of all purchases were classified by the buyers themselves as impulse purchases.
    • - Younger consumers with higher incomes have a greater percentage of impulse purchases.

The business implications: Reach people at the right time with the right message—even when they’re not planning a purchase—and you’re likely to secure a sale.

So, how can you be sure to take advantage of the right time slots to draw your audience in? Here are a few questions to consider before planning your next advertising campaign.

    • - Given the demographics of the target audience, are they more likely to respond to my offer while at home watching television? If so, what type of programming are they likely to watch during off-time to unwind?
    • - What type of advertisement and offer is going to entice my audience to make an immediate purchase or act on another call to action?
    • - Does the majority of my target market spend more time watching television or using iPads, web-enabled mobile devices, or other types of new media?

Your answers to these questions will help define your strategy in terms of direct response calls to action, programming, and markets in which to air your ads.

The bigger question for advertisers looking to pursue a nontent strategy is: As the tablet and mobile phenomenon continues to expand and as the device of choice evolves, what is the level of involvement for these tech-savvy content consumers? How does “involved viewing” breakout across the multiple screens that are an ever-increasing part of the media landscape? How much nontent is making its way to those screens?

The jury’s still out. But, rest assured, DRTV agencies and their clients are already testing these propositions. And you can also count on the fact that whether it’s a mobile device, a tablet, a computer, or some new version of the good old TV set, nontent viewers and related advertising opportunities will abound.

Mike Powell is SVP, ECD of A. Eicoff & Co.

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The Key to Keeping Your Employees: Do It the Old-Fashioned Way

By: Bill McCabe

Forbes - Turnover in the managerial ranks has reached epidemic proportions. Downsizing, mergers, early retirement, career shifts, and midlife crises are among the many reasons. Most people see this as an inevitable and not particularly disturbing fact of our volatile age. I see it as a major obstacle to productivity and profit.

As the chief executive of an advertising agency, I work in an industry plagued by turnover. When an agency loses a big account, its reflex is to fire people. As you might imagine, that doesn’t foster employee loyalty; most workers have little compunction about switching agencies when they receive an offer. Sometimes they leave not for more money or better positions but because they expect the agency to lose an account or engage in unrelated “cost-cutting” measures.

The problem grows from there. Clients are upset when an esteemed account, media, or creative person suddenly isn’t there anymore. Perhaps even worse, rapid turnover disrupts the work. Not only are there delays in projects when people leave and new ones must be brought up to speed, but knowledge falls through the cracks.  The five- or ten-year veteran invariably takes a certain amount of savvy with her that is difficult to replace. Agencies dilute or even lose their identities when they can’t keep most of their people in place for sustained periods. In Chicago, if you look at the top ad agencies from 30 years ago and you look at the leading agencies today, you’ll see that many of the former aren’t on the current list, and that a sizable percentage of them no longer exist. And obviously this problem isn’t limited to advertising.

However, senior leaders can limit turnover. I know they can, because 50% of our own staff has been with us for 10 years or longer. That’s not because we pay better than other agencies or because we provide great perks and luxurious offices. It’s because we value continuity and have enacted policies to promote it.

Any organization can do what we’ve done, but it takes a leap of faith. If you’re cynical about employees, if you believe that loyalty is an outmoded concept, then you won’t take continuity-enhancing steps. If you’re convinced that greed trumps all else, that you can’t keep your best people for long because there is always someone out there willing to make them a better offer, then you should stop reading now. But if you believe that the majority of people want to grow with a growing enterprise, and want to develop and sustain relationships over the long term, then consider implementing the following policies:

1. Avoid downsizing and other mass terminations at all costs. Or, more to the point, cut other costs before you give people the ax. Forgo the Christmas party, limit expense accounts, reduce or eliminate bonuses. These are tough pills to swallow, but when your people understand you’re administering them to avoid mass layoffs, they’ll be more willing to swallow them.

2. Create a familial culture. That doesn’t mean talking about how we’re one big family and then taking actions that contradict the assertion. It means institutionalizing small and big policies that demonstrate that the company cares. Providing generous support for those who have to go on disability leave can be one. Being transparent—communicating important decisions quickly, soliciting feedback regularly—is a second. A third is holding events that bring people together, such as dinners and outings.

3. Define your values and hire accordingly. Do you believe that work comes before family, or that one must strike a balance? Do you feel that just about any tactic is valid if it lands a client, or are there higher standards you adhere to? We hire for knowledge and skill, but we try to determine if a job applicant is a good match in less tangible ways. What books is he reading? What is she passionate about outside of work?

These tactics don’t work 100% of the time. You’re always going to lose some good people. But they do significantly increase the odds that you’ll limit your losses and establish the continuity required to build a sustainable enterprise.

Bill McCabe is the President/CEO at A. Eicoff & Co., one of North America’s largest DRTV agencies.

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Call Me Maybe? The Key To Effective Advertising

By: Jim Madsen

MediaPost - 

Hey, I just met you,

And this is crazy,

But here’s my number,

So call me, maybe?

Call Me Maybe was the song of Summer 2012. But Carly Rae Jepsen’s catchy little earworm contained a truth that everyone should heed. If you want someone to call you, they’ll need your number.


So how does a no-brainer like this get lost in the world of advertising?

Because agencies and advertisers don’t realize their brand-building commercials have morphed into direct-response ones.  Somehow, a Web site address or 800 number snuck in, and this changes everything. Oh, they still retain all the branding elements -- the ads position products and services strategically and with impact. They possess great production values and don’t look like traditional two-minute direct-response spots.

But these commercials have become all flirtation, with no follow-through. They want viewers to respond, but they don’t provide sufficient motivation or information for them to do so.

No matter how sexy a spot looks, how cleverly it’s written, how accurately it’s targeted, or even how much social media it uses, it won’t make the register ring repeatedly without doing what Carly does: making it easy to call or click. These days, advertisers want their ads to be accountable -- even their brand-building commercials -- and so customers need a phone number, a link, a point of sale. But once a commercial tries to evoke a response with an 800 number or URL or even a retailer location, it has crossed the line from general to direct-response advertising.

Direct-response leverages brand, strategy, creative and media. But it doesn’t leave its audience hanging. It takes their hand and invites them to the next step forward, toward making an actual purchase.

Branding is great -- and if branding is the sole purpose of the ad, then forget about Carly’s message. But if any type of response is requested, then think about that message long and hard.

The next time you see a commercial, ask yourself two questions:

Do I know exactly where or how I can buy this product? Do I care enough to call or click?

Don’t get me wrong. Having a great product with smart advertising will definitely get you noticed. But until you’re as well-known as Apple, Pepsi, or Carly Rae Jepsen, the register won’t ring as much as it should until you follow through with those magic words: …here’s my number, so call me, maybe?

Jim Madsen is a copywriter at A. Eicoff & Co., one of North America's largest DRTV agencies. 

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To Click or Call: The DRTV Question

By: Mike Powell

Direct Marketing News - This is a question that has created a great deal of discussion—as well as a lot of confusion—among direct response agencies and advertisers. Some believe that the URL offers tremendous advantages over 800 numbers—lower cost, website resources, flexibility—not to mention that it represents the converging technology future. Some argue that 800 numbers are far superior because more people are comfortable responding through phone calls than via websites and that conversion rates are higher using phone than URLs. 

In fact, both sides have valid positions, but this isn't an either/or question. DRTV advertisers should capitalize on both phone and web as response tools, but they should do so knowing the best ways to use both in a given spot and for a given offer. To that end, here are five principles that we've found beneficial when considering the 800 number/URL issue:

1. Prioritize your response tool. In every spot, one tool should be the primary focus while the other is the secondary focus. Giving the 800 number and the URL equal time tends to dampen the response, perhaps because it creates confusion in the minds of viewers—they're not sure if they should call or click, and that internal conflict delays their response and ultimately stops them from taking action.

2. Create a unique landing page for your URL. Don't just direct viewers to a general website; it will lack the “dedicated” features that convert clicks to sales. Instead, design a landing page that mirrors the look and feel of the commercial.

3. Feature the phone number and URL individually. Do so in the bottom bar of the spot. Rotate them rather than trying to fit both in the same space. Again, you don't want to create a conflict between the two response options.

4. Recognize that the old phone technology is superior to the new URL tool in certain circumstances. Phone calls will likely convert at a higher rate than the (user-controlled) web channel, and in situations that are complex, demand longer decision time, and provide greater upsell opportunity phone is generally a better option.

5. Include search as a metric when using a URL. You're likely to find an increase in searches generated by views of the commercial (product or company name, for instance) from people who may not have written down the URL but are interested in the offer.

Finally, keep in mind that new technologies will keep producing new response options. In a few cases, we've included text response tools as an option in spots. Admittedly, this is still a small slice of the pie, but invariably, it will be a growing slice. The key is to keep an open mind about all new response options and recognize the continued viability of the traditional one.

Mike Powell is the SVP/Executive Creative Director at A. Eicoff & Co., one of North America’s largest DRTV agencies.

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3 Building Blocks for a Long-Lasting Client Relationship

Here are three guiding principles that are essential in sustaining long-term relationships:

By: Bill McCabe

1to1 Media- We live in a time when business relationships and valued partnerships are fleeting— where it's assumed that the volatility of the business environment makes long-term client relationships a thing of the past. We've found, however, to maintain your brand and successfully grow your organization, solid business relationships should not be built to go fast, they should be built to go far.

What are the essential building blocks for long-lasting collaboration and partnership? First and most obviously, excellent work is paramount. This means everything from meeting deadlines to executing strategies effectively. But in a fast-changing world, excellence is not always enough to sustain a relationship beyond a certain point.

Today, companies evolve their market models and strategies to adapt to market transitions and industry trends. At those evolutionary points, which occur more frequently now than in the past, companies often review their existing business relationships and make changes.

So, how can professional service agencies and other firms prevent that seemingly inevitable switch after a short period of time? Here are three guiding principles that we've found to be essential in sustaining long-term relationships: 

1. Consistent staffing 

In professional service firms, especially in the advertising business, organizations routinely move people onto and off of accounts. This is done for many reasons. For example, to bring fresh thinking to the account, to ensure professional staffers don't get bored, or to shift a talented employee to a bigger or more difficult client. Many times, however, these movements can do more harm than good. It takes time for people to trust each other and learn the best ways to communicate. If changes are constantly made to an account and the personnel don't remain for longer periods of time, bonds between client and agency don't form or have the opportunity to deepen. For instance, we have one account that has been with us for more than 40 years. While we certainly have had some turnover on the account because of retirement or other reasons, a number of our key people have worked on the account for more than 20 years. 

Understandably, some personnel changes are out of your control. Individuals leave the company or are let go. The client may also experience some personnel turnover. While these changes can't be planned for, professional service firms and other vendors can control their overall approach to staffing accounts and ensure the priority is always on the continuity of personnel.

2. Business-driven results 
In the world of advertising, many agencies measure the success of their ads in terms of industry awards or research (i.e. viewer awareness scores). Agencies often believe they've done a great job when there's a flattering article about their work in a trade publication or when everyone compliments them on how "creative" or "cutting edge" an ad was. Law firms take pride in the quality of their briefs and judgments rendered in court; financial service firms measure themselves by how well they performed against standard measures. 

We're not discounting these measures—they're important. But if you expect a client or customer to become a long-term one, then you had better deliver business-driven results. In our business, we work with clients to measure how a television ad campaign impacts sales in different regions of the country; how it affects distribution of products in stores; how it drives viewers of commercials to websites.
Developing criteria and the means for measuring tangible success metrics can be a challenge. And, there is typically little to no wiggle room if you fall short of your mutually agreed upon goals. Still, it is better to drive toward a realistic goal and be judged on something tangible. This is what cements relationships.

3. Common values 
Making your values and philosophies clear from the start is a good way to come to a mutual understanding of the way you and your clients operate, and what is expected from both parties. If there is an obvious disconnect between your respective views of the relationship and its goals, you might think twice about engaging in that relationship altogether. For instance, we look for clients that value transparency and frequent and straightforward communication. We aren't interested in clients who enjoy game-playing, who sugar-coat their comments or who fail to return calls. No doubt, these types of clients aren't interested in us because of our values. When you can find a value match, however, you create bonds with clients that are difficult to break.

Adhering to these three building blocks doesn't guarantee you will hold on to your clients indefinitely. But, it does increase the odds that you will extend the length of your partnerships, in a volatile business environment where relationships seem to last about as long as a Kim Kardashian marriage.

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A Cleanser Manufacturer Cleans up with a Mobile Marketing App

Jelmar used the Checkpoints app to encourage store shoppers to view video ads.

By: Amy Dusto, Associate Editor

Internet Retailer - Cleaning products manufacturer Jelmar had stuck to TV and radio ads to promote its CLR and CLR Bath & Kitchen products for decades, says Matt Cote, director of emerging media at Eicoff, Jelmar’s advertising agency. But in September the manufacturer tested a national campaign that encouraged in-store shoppers to scan CLR products with their smartphones and the CheckPoints mobile app to view Jelmar video ads.

The ads garnered 50,000 views in about two weeks—faster than expected—and a before/after survey revealed that more consumers recognized the CLR brand and expressed intent to purchase CLR products by the campaign’s end, though Jelmar did not disclose exact numbers, Cote says. Jelmar is working with stores now on turning the in-store app activity into sales, he says. He adds that more consumers used CheckPoints to engage with CLR at large retail chains like Target Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and CVS Caremark Corp. than at smaller stores. The CheckPoints app is available for Apple Inc. or Android devices, according to the company that developed it, inMarket Media LLC, which reaches 20 million U.S. consumers in its network.

The app offer consumers points for completing activities after scanning products in stores. For example, they may be prompted to watch a video, take a survey, play a game, search the web or complete brand offers. They can then redeem those points for prizes ranging from a $1 gift card to a Nintendo Wii gaming system or an Apple TV. The app uses geolocation to tell consumers which stores are nearby and what products are available in those stores to scan for points. 

“It’s an ideal situation for a marketer to be able to hit someone in the store while they’re holding the product and scanning it,” Cote says. His agency is looking into future campaigns that could use games to engage customers in stores, he says.

On average among CheckPoints clients, consumers spend 90 seconds interacting with a brand’s campaign on the app after they scan a product—three times longer than the average TV ad, an inMarket spokesman says. Additionally, consumers who pick up and scan products on average report in surveys a 30% higher intent to purchase, he says.

The CLR campaign carried almost no risk for Jelmar to try, Cote says—inMarket’s clients pay a fee only when consumers engage with their brands on the app, which in Jelmar’s case was when they watched the video after scanning a CLR product. In that campaign, the fees were less than a dollar per view, Cote says, though inMarket says the rates vary between clients and campaigns.

CheckPoints is one of three mobile apps inMarket offers designed to engage in-store shoppers. The others are Extra! Extra!, a coupons and deals app that displays offers based on votes from users, and List Bliss, a collaborative shopping list app that allows, for example, everyone in a household to see which kitchen supplies have run out and either add items to a collaborative list in the app or mark them off when they’re bought.

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Know Your Audience (and Where They Are and How to Reach Them)

By: Bill McCabe

Marketing Profs - In this article, you'll learn:

1.) Three crucial questions advertisers should ask before investing in new media

2.) How to effectively differentiate between the reality and the promise of existing and emerging ad technologies

3.) Some common misconceptions about television advertising's demise

As a marketer, you understand that to achieve brand marketing goals you must know your target audience inside and out.

Given this notion, a look beyond the numbers can be enlightening, particularly in terms of the many misconceptions regarding television—particularly, that the influence of TV advertising is waning.

All indications are, however, that TV viewing is at an all-time high.

Watching the evolution of all the new technology available for reaching consumers (mobile, tablets, gaming, 3D, e-books, online video, to name just a few) is fascinating as a marketer. It's even more intriguing for those of us working in direct response (DRTV advertising)—as not a day goes by that we don't see a new application for the ad campaigns we currently air.

And yet, we continue to remind ourselves not to be distracted—and to keep our eye on the proverbial ball. That's not to say that new technologies won't continue to grow in importance. They will (and they will become a larger source of revenue for traditional TV advertisers). Yet, the larger message sometimes gets lost in the numbers.

For example, let's take a look at some Nielsen numbers from earlier this year:

Looking at the large viewership numbers—pretty substantial—is one thing. However, looking at the types of programming generating the large viewership is just as important: American Idol, Voice, NCIS, Walking Dead, Jersey Shore, WWE.

Now, I am sure that a certain percentage of viewers of those show who own an iPad, who watch video online or via mobile. However, I am equally sure that the vast majority of these viewers don't.

The point is not that we shouldn't target audiences via new technology channels—that's a no-brainer. The point is to remember that what may be old hat to us marketing folk may be new to—and may be much more slowly adopted by—a broad audience.

Therefore, here are three key questions to ask yourself before funneling marketing and ad dollars out of your television advertising budget and toward new media:

1.) Does the majority of my target market spend more time watching television or using iPads, mobile devices, and other types of new media?

2.) Given the demographics of my audience, are they more likely to respond to my offer when driving, waiting at the airport, or taking a break at work—versus sitting at home watching television?

3.) Will I be better able to reach a significant number of my target market with a strategic buy of a combination of cable/network/independent stations or via new media?

But don't just take it from me. The next time you go to the DMV to renew your driver's license, count how many iPads you see. In 10 years (or sooner) iPads will most likely be ubiquitous, but until then we have to remember what any comedian already knows: know your audience.

The impact of new technology on television advertising media, such as DRTV, is both exciting and complex. The messages must continue to appeal to mass audiences, but they must also be served up in a myriad ways to allow consumers to digest them the way they feel most comfortable.

As we continue to layer on new technology to traditional advertising media, we must continue to analyze "who" our audience is in addition to "how" we are reaching them.

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How To Reel In The Elusive 18-34-Year-Old Man

By: Margaret Firalio

Media Post-- Okay, before you get any ideas, no, I’m not going “there.” Not really, anyway. I’m talking about how to effectively market to what is considered a very non-traditional direct response TV (DRTV) advertising target: males between the ages of 18 and 34.

This sports-loving, beer-guzzling demographic is commonly perceived to be at the top of advertisers’ most-desired list. Whether or not this is (or should be) the case, over the past decade or so it has been documented that these guys are becoming increasingly harder to locate. It’s not that they aren’t watching TV -- they are doing a lot of other things too such as going online, watching DVDs, and playing video games.

So can 18- to-34-year-old men still be found via television, a medium that is approaching 100 years of age? And more importantly, can we get them to respond to DRTV’s alluring charms? As I have seen firsthand, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding “yes.” And, perhaps not coincidentally, the means to our success is not so different than those of highly successful daters.

As an example I’ll cite a rental-service company we partnered with that deals in something the testosterone-laden target male group covets: video games. Attracting our targets is always easier when you are able to showcase the right assets -- and this company unquestioningly has them. Armed with a compelling commercial, we were ready to cut to the chase.

Our first step was to ensure that our ads were showing up in precisely the locations where those-hopefully-receptive-to-our-message men hang out. In the dating world, outdated logic says a good man can be found in your local house of worship or grocery store. Today, we’d be better off hitting the sports bar. So how do you find the equivalent of the sports bar in the world of DRTV?

Not the traditional networks. Outside of Family Guy, the weekend sporting events and late-night mixed martial arts programming, the “Big Four” networks don’t have a whole lot of what appeals to our target. In fact, you could make the case that these networks are now more like the aforementioned pews or produce sections. No -- the real sports bars of DRTV are the cable networks, or more specifically, the niche networks, of which there is a seemingly endless supply. Don’t believe me? Would Fox really be thinking about creating a 24/7 Simpsons channel if this wasn’t true? For our rental service client, we strutted our stuff directly atop the beer-soaked pub tables of Adult Swim, Comedy Central and MTV.

So now that we’re parading in the right places, will our target pay attention and respond? If we’re handing out phone numbers, not necessarily. That’s a more conventional approach, and for males 18-34, it’s hit or miss. Nowadays, this demographic is more apt to text than to call. So for our client, we performed a “text to mobile” test and saw a great response. One could even say we had to beat the boys off with a stick.

Of course, once they’re genuinely interested, it’s your job as a client to keep your customers happy with your great product, service or business. After all, that’s the real key in a long-term commitment. And as Beyoncé would tell you, if they like it, then they should put a ring on it.

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MyWebGrocer to Expand Advertiser Reach Via Digital

Progressive Grocer - Digital grocery solutions vendor MyWebGrocer has partnered with direct response TV (DRTV) provider A. Eicoff & Company to pilot a new digital advertising campaign for Jelmar’s CLR line of cleaning products across its network of food retailer websites to increase awareness of CLR and reach online consumers s they are interacting with web-based grocery planning and shopping tools.

“We have already experienced the benefits of DRTV advertising for a number of years,” said Alison Gutterman, president of Jelmar, LLC. “The pilot program will allow us to extend our already successful campaigns to the web through MWG’s platform and provides the opportunity to connect with even more consumers as they are planning purchases. The program allows us to maximize the impact of our overall advertising campaigns through multiple online channels.”

MyWebGrocer placed the CLR advertisements, created by Eicoff, on its network of 114 national grocery sites dedicated to online shopping and planning. This network reaches 6.4 million unique visitors, according to MWG. The initial CLR campaign ran in early 2011 and drove a 14 petrcent lift in new consumers who saw the ad. In an effort to replicate this success, Eicoff and MWG partnered for a second campaign in fall of 2011. The campaign significantly built upon the success of the first phase, providing a 67 pertcent lift in new consumer trials. Both campaigns were successful in attracting new shoppers who had previously been purchasing competitor’s products.

“The Jelmar CLR ad campaign was designed to communicate brand benefits, drive purchase intent and strengthen online category share while increasing brand loyalty for CLR in the digital space,” said Dan Vanchieri, SVP of national sales for MyWebGrocer. “This was accomplished by placing the CLR ads at the point of decision, in online environments that already had an active consumer audience.”

Jelmar provides leading household cleaning products, including the nationally-recognized CLR and Tarn-X brands, to consumers globally. The family-owned business, which was started more than 50 years ago, distributes its products throughout the U.S., Canada and Australia. In addition to the core CLR and Tarn-x products, Jelmar develops other innovative cleaning solutions for the kitchen, bathroom, outdoor furniture, silver, brass and more. For more information, visit www.jelmar.com.

Colchester, Vt.-based MWG manages digital solutions for more than 114 retailers nationally, representing more than 10,000 stores, and 90+ major Consumer Packaged Goods brands.

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Rare Change at Top for A. Eicoff & Company

By: Stuart Elliot

The New York Times- The advertising industry is among those known for turnover in the executive suites. But a changing of the guard at the Chicago agency A. Eicoff & Company marks only the second time since the agency’s founding in 1959 that there will be a new top leader.

A. Eicoff, which has 100 employees, specializes in direct-response television campaigns for marketers like AARP, Lenovo, Quicken Loans and the UnitedHealth Group. The new top manager is Bill McCabe, who is being promoted to president and chief executive after being executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Mr. McCabe, who is 49, succeeds Ron Bliwas, 69, who has been president and chief executive for the last 32 years. Mr. Bliwas, who becomes acting chairman of the agency, became the agency’s second top leader when he succeeded the founder, Alvin Eicoff.

"Bill is the right one to take Eicoff forward," Mr. Bliwas said in a phone interview on Wednesday. He said that he and Mr. McCabe have worked together for the last 27 years.

Mr. McCabe, who joined Mr. Bliwas for the interview, said he was looking forward to exploring opportunities for direct-response television, known as DRTV, in areas like mobile and social media.

DRTV has become more than a method to sell products by toll-free telephone calls, Mr. McCabe said, as more "Fortune 500, Fortune 100 companies" use it "to generate highly qualified sales leads."

Another strength of DRTV is "the ability to use longer spots," he added, a reference to the willingness of many DRTV commercials to extend to two minutes. Other advertisers, including Chipotle Mexican Grill and the Chrysler Group, are producing two-minute commercials for other purposes; those companies’ advertisements appeared, respectively, during the Grammy Awards and the Super Bowl XLVI halftime show.

Eicoff has been part of the Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide division of WPP since 1982.

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TV advertising veteran stepping down

By: Robert Channick

Chicago Tribune- Ron Bliwas, the longtime chief executive of A. Eicoff & Co., the Chicago-based direct-response television agency that claims credit for coining the phrase "or your money back," is stepping down.

Bliwas has headed up the nation's largest DRTV agency for 32 years, steering it from a late-night shill for everything from TV Magic Cards and hair growth formulas into a mainstream marketer for companies such as Walgreens, New York Life and The Scooter Store.

The ongoing transition from television to online advertising was one reason for handing the reins to Eicoff veteran Bill McCabe, complete with a guarantee nearly as strong as those in their many 800-number commercials.

"Bill McCabe has been leading this transition into digital media," Bliwas said. "He's better equipped to take the agency forward than me."

Bliwas, 69, who has been with the company for more than four decades, will stay on as acting chairman. McCabe, a 27-year veteran at Eicoff, is moving up from his role as executive vice president and chief operating officer, where he has worked closely with many of the agency's major accounts, including UnitedHealthcare, Quicken Loans, AARP and Genworth Financial.

Eicoff operates as an ad agency, charging a commission for creating, producing and placing commercials on television; they stayed in business by producing "measurable results" for clients, based on direct sales. The agency has grown steadily over the years and has about 120 employees, with projected billings of $600 million in 2012, said Bliwas.

Founded at the dawn of the television age by Alvin Eicoff, the agency pioneered direct-response advertising, blitzing the airwaves with product demonstrations that urged viewers to buy on the spot. Achievements included popularizing the use of 800-number ads in the 1970s and adding the ubiquitous money-back guarantee to close sales in 60 seconds or less.

Some early big sellers included an Easter egg coloring machine known as the Decoregger, TV Magic Cards featuring local magician Marshall Brodien and a record compilation for Columbia House called "101 Great Moments in Music" recordings.

The Columbia House commercial, remembered in a 2002 obituary of Eicoff in the Los Angeles Times, opened with orchestral music and a voice-over saying, "You may think this song is Tony Bennett's 'Strangers in Paradise,' but it is really the 'Polovtsian Dance No. 8' by Alexander Borodin."

Approached by AT&T in the late '70s, the agency was one of the first to incorporate 800 numbers into its commercials, which allowed advertisers to use one spot nationally and consolidate regional call centers, substantially improving results, Bliwas said.

Eicoff also launched what was arguably the first infomercial, in the late '70s, airing a 30-minute broadcast for New Generation, a hair care product that claimed to reverse baldness. Though Eicoff subsequently got out of the infomercial space, the show ran for years, generating huge revenues, if not follicular results.

In the 1980s, Eicoff helped Time-Life books sell the history of just about everything, using the growing reach of cable as the primary medium.

The agency was acquired by Ogilvy & Mather in 1982, soon after Bliwas took over as CEO, and marked a shift from gadgets and gizmos to more mainstream marketing.

"When I became the CEO, I really changed the direction of the agency and made the decision we were not going to do slicers and dicers and records," Bliwas said. "We were going to try to attract Fortune 500 companies, which we did, to do direct-response television."

Direct marketing has been growing steadily in recent years in revenue and prestige. Spending was up by 5.6 percent in 2011, to $163 billion, and now accounts for 52.1 percent of total advertising spending in the U.S., according to the Direct Marketing Association, a New York-based trade organization.

Much of that growth has been through digital channels, where direct response is integral to a range of advertising vehicles.

Once viewed as the poor stepchild of advertising agencies, Eicoff is now seen as perhaps ahead of its time and a forerunner of the digital advertising model, said Lawrence Kimmel, CEO of the Direct Marketing Association.

"There are three revered components of contemporary marketing: data, customer centricity and accountability," Kimmel said. "Those have been core tenets of what they have done throughout. They recognized the importance of accountability in television early on, they made it viable, they made it understandable."

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Eicoff names McCabe CEO, Bliwas becomes ad agency's acting chairman

By: Kate MacArthur

Crain's- Ron Bliwas, head of the country's largest direct-response television agency, A. Eicoff & Co., has announced he's leaving the CEO post after 32 years with the company.

He named Bill McCabe, 49, to become president and CEO. Mr. Bliwas will continue as acting chairman.

"I have done this job for longer than just about any other major agency CEO,” Mr. Bliwas, 69, said in a statement. “I felt it was time to give Bill a chance to take charge. I am confident in his abilities to successfully run the business and ensure Eicoff continues to lead the industry as DRTV takes hold on a much broader scale."

The Chicago-based agency, with 120 employees, is a unit of New York-based ad agency Ogilvy & Mather.

Mr. McCabe, now executive vice president and chief operating officer, has been with Eicoff for 27 years.

Founded in 1959 by Alvin Eicoff — who coined the phrase "Or your money back" and championed the 800 phone number — the agency has grown 50 percent over the last three years to about $600 million in annual billings, Mr. McCabe said in an interview. "Marketers are demanding much more accountability for their TV advertising and that's going to continue," he said.

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DRTV vet Ron Bliwas steps down from CEO role at A. Eicoff & Co.

By: Alex Palmer

Direct Marketing News- Ron Bliwas has handed over the reigns after 32 years as CEO of DRTV agency A. Eicoff & Company, the company said on March 1. Longtime employee Bill McCabe will succeed him in the role, becoming the company's third leader in its 57-year history.

Bliwas will now serve as acting chair of the A. Eicoff, a division of Ogilvy & Mather, where he will continue to offer support and assistance to the agency.

A member of the Direct Marketing Association's Hall of Fame and former chairman of the DMA board, Bliwas helped guide the company to its current position as the largest DRTV agency in the country. He was instrumental in the acquisition of Eicoff & Co. by Ogilvy & Mather in 1982.

Bliwas also emphasized that the company's success in attracting top clients was helped by his decision to avoid infomercials and what he calls "slicers and dicers."

"You can't attract the kind of clients that we have — the Met Lifes and the New York Lifes and the United Health Groups — if you're dealing with the grapefruit diet and the abdominizer and all those things," Bliwas said.

McCabe himself has been with A. Eicoff for 27 years, most recently serving as EVP and COO, during which time he worked with such clients Quicken Loans, AARP and Genworth Financial.

McCabe takes on the role at a time when the DRTV landscape is changing dramatically, with online and mobile video competing for viewer attention. However, McCabe described the growth of online as having created new opportunities for A. Eicoff's work.

"The Internet is the best thing that happened to us," McCabe said. "What we do is really sskind of a form of online marketing; we measure every single spot, every station is like its own website [and] we're ... using online strategies on television."

McCabe said TV advertising will have even stronger direct response elements in the years ahead, with URLs or toll-free numbers likely to appear in virtually all commercials in the next five to ten years.

"It's going to be a seamless transition,” Bliwas said of his replacement.

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