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Why Kodak Is Using DRTV in Addition to Brand Advertising for Its Printing Products

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YORK, Pa. ( -- The phrase "As seen on TV" might bring to mind Snuggie, ShamWow and PedEgg but probably not a venerable American brand that invites you to share the most important moments of your life.

Yet for Kodak, direct-response TV has become an effective and preferred way to reach consumers in the year and a half that the company has used it.

"It's become one of the main tools we deploy," said Jeffrey Hayzlett, Kodak's chief marketing officer, who added that DRTV is now the "second-best medium that we use to reach our customers." (He declined to name the first.)

Short- and long-form infomercials for Kodak printers, which last two minutes and nearly a half-hour, respectively, focus on the value message Kodak uses in its traditional brand advertising for its printer and low-priced ink cartridges. However, the ads also spell out specific savings, provide testimonials and examples, and even include the tone of a more typical infomercial. A short-form spot that began running a few weeks ago opens with the line "Are you sick of paying ridiculous prices for printer ink?"

Retail partners don't mind the direct push, because at the end Kodak gives them a shout out, telling customers that if they can't wait for a product to arrive in the mail, they should go to Target, Walmart, Best Buy or Staples, depending on where they live. Mr. Hayzlett said the informercials have a "very strong halo effect and strong lift at retail."

Kodak first ran infomercials, created by Kaplan Thaler Group, in the first quarter of 2008, Mr. Hayzlett said, and executives pegged the sales increase after the first airing at 20%. Hosts have changed and creative has been reworked, but the call to action remains the same.

"When everybody else in the market is down some 20%, we're up 44% in the market today on both equipment and ink, so that should tell you how well our campaigns are working and how the value proposition resonates," Mr. Hayzlett said, adding that Kodak's other agencies -- Ogilvy & Mather, New York; Partners & Napier, Rochester, N.Y.; Deutsch, New York; and PR firm Ketchum -- also worked on the campaign.

Steve Baker, an analyst at NPD Group, said the direct-response strategy makes sense for Kodak.

"With 30 printer SKUs on a shelf, six different brands and retailers who want seamless displays, it's hard to stand out, especially with their very specific [value-pricing] message," he said. "Talking directly to customers like that is not a bad idea."

Mr. Baker said the move is reminiscent of Apple in 2001, when the company, believing its products were getting overlooked in the bustle of most retail stores, opened its own stores to showcase what its products could do. He noted that while Kodak's retail printer market share is double what it was last year, it's still fairly low, at about 3.5%.

"Even if I don't pick up the phone and call and buy, if I go to Staples and see the printer on the shelf, I might have some recall," Mr. Baker said. "I think it's a cool idea and nice that someone is thinking about a different way to go to market."

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