Direct-response TV producer MarkeTVision Direct calls this "revenue-enhanced programming," where dollars from conventional TV image spots augment the revenue generated from the infomercial's own direct-response sales messages.
GRATEFUL DEAD AND PATRIOTS
As examples of the new TV genre, MarkeTVision recently created half-hour REP programs for clients including the Grateful Dead, the New England Patriots and General Cinema that feature entertainment programming intermingled with the infomercial's customary direct-response pods. The direct-response messages sold products ranging from T-shirts to movie gift certificates to CD collections.
What makes these infomercials different are the conventional commercials they also carried for brand-name products.
The Grateful Dead program, titled "The Long Strange Trip Continues," is airing on the Burly Bear Network, an on-campus network reaching more than 1.7 million students. MarkeTVision tapped Maxell Corp. of America as a corporate sponsor to pay the cost of media and production. Three 30-second spots for Maxell air throughout the show, in addition to three pods that sell band CDs and clothing.
"We have a long-standing relationship with the Grateful Dead and we have a very loyal following among their fans," said Scott Fain, product manager for audio and video lines at Maxell. "It makes all the sense in the world to be a sponsor of programming that revolves around the Grateful Dead and reaches the band's fans."
Manhattan Marketing Ensemble, New York, handles Maxell's advertising.
MOVIES AND GIFT CERTIFICATES
The "Coming Attractions" program for General Cinema promotes upcoming movies. Direct response is used within the program to sell General Cinema gift certificates. Corporate sponsors for the program include PepsiCo and M&M/Mars; the program airs on CBS affiliates in cities that have General Cinema theaters.
MarkeTVision sees the REP strategy as a door-opener for infomercial companies calling on Fortune 500 marketers.
To help tell that story, the Boston-based company last month hired John Verret, former vice chairman of ad agency Arnold Fortuna Lawner & Cabot, to become its VP-corporate development. Mr. Verret had been retired.
"His role will be to take the idea of revenue-enhanced programming and introduce it to the Fortune 500 companies and their agencies," said Mike Zapolin, CEO of MarkeTVision. "We want to take our ideas and our company to the next level."
Although the company won't disclose sales figures, it said it has sold "tens of thousands" of dollars worth of CDs and has added thousands of names to the Grateful Dead database.
"Revenue-enhanced programming is a great way to offset the cost of advertising," said Mr. Zapolin. "Traditionally advertising is seen as a necessary expense; it builds brand, but it doesn't generate actual sales. REP advertising sets out to pay for itself."
Traditional infomercial marketers have taken similar approaches to selling multiple products within one program. However, the approach is used as a test to see which products and price points work the best.
"It's a great opportunity to find out what's worthwhile to sell," said Steve Dworman, publisher of the Infomercial Marketing Report. "Traditionally, though, selling multiple products within one program hasn't been successful; that's why the method has usually been used in trial situations."