The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

Nicky Legg, broadcast director at Mike Colling & Company, argues that DRTV deserves more credit.

Nicky Legg
Nicky Legg

A few weeks ago I was invited by ITV to hear the findings of research on television responsiveness when in conjunction with direct marketing. I was looking forward to an acknowledgement of how effective my specialist area of DRTV actually is. Unfortunately, although it was an interesting session, this was not the case. Instead, the focus was on highlighting how brand television activity is now causing people to take actions – be it by following a meerkat on Facebook or by watching people dancing at Liverpool Street station.

It’s not the first time a big TV station has failed to recognise the power of pure DRTV. I’ve been working on DRTV campaigns for over a decade now and in all that time it’s never quite gained the kudos it deserves. Surprising considering it’s currently worth over £1bn to media owners, quite a chunk, and one that would certainly be missed if it was priced out of the market.

DRTV has been prompting people to respond – and respond quickly – since the early 1990s. Nowadays, the most common message is to ’go online’ or ’send an SMS’, but the phone is still king in most clients’ eyes. This is largely due to conversion rates – an average online conversion rate is around 3%, whereas on the phone it can reach as much as 85%.

However, as most marketers will tell you, what you ask people to do and what they actually do are two entirely different matters. Humans exercise free will, which means they will always respond in the way they want – even if an advertisement includes a phone number and no URL, a high volume of people will still end up on the website. For me, this is where the fun begins, and this is what the ITV presentation highlighted.

Every web search is prompted or influenced by something seen, heard or read. Advertising’s strength lies in changing peoples’ opinions. Pure DRTV works on the basis of trying to affect their behaviour.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, said psychologist David Navon in 1977 – a quote in support of a psychological notion called the Gestalt theory. One of the main pillars of the theory is the principle of totality, which states that the conscious experience must be considered globally, because the nature of the mind demands that each component be considered part of a system of dynamic relationships. This is key for marketers – especially in the current climate. It’s no longer effective to look at one aspect of a marketing budget in isolation – you have to look at a campaign in its totality. Our most successful recent campaigns are those where the media is designed to run as part of an integrated whole – from creative messaging through to a range of media activity and timing.

The sentiment may sound obvious, but it’s one that is often ignored. We’ve frequently seen insert campaigns achieve a 50% uplift in response when run at the same time as a heavyweight TV campaign, likewise for doordrops. The highest uplift often comes via online – but this is often a result of the ’last click wins’ effect.

We often treat online as a medium, but, as Tess Alps of Thinkbox pointed out a few months ago, to most consumers it’s actually a technology. Online is an amalgamation of the yellow pages and the phone. People use it as a source of information and then frequently stay within the environment to respond. True, five years ago they would have picked up the phone instead. But this doesn’t mean we should simply focus on digital. It would be both dangerous and foolish to move all marketing budgets online – as the uplift from other media would disappear. Remember the warning story about the client that did just that with directories years ago – the phone abruptly stopped ringing!

Although DRTV once again wasn’t credited with the recognition it deserved, I actually left the ITV presentation feeling proud. DRTV has been leading the way in response – both online and offline – for years. And during that time, we’ve learnt to harness it well, as part of a much bigger, and more effective, whole.

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