Do infomercials make sense for Digital OOH Networks?

March 24, 2011 by Dave Haynes

rVue has done an intriguing deal with a direct response TV marketing firm – a loftier description for a company that does TV infomercials – to bring those ads to Digital OOH networks.

“We, at GIS, always strive to find innovative and effective ways to ‘Reach out to the World’ and are very excited about this alliance,” says Eric Edington, Vice President of Global Infomercial Services. “This venture with rVue will allow us to offer Per Inquiry media to the Direct Response TV community that reaches and engages the desired target market more effectively and economically.”

GIS is a distributor of the sorts of products all too familiar to insomniacs and parents with teething babies – miracle cleaning products, juicers, exercise DVDs and denture whiteners. The idea is that versions of ads that are now bought with mostly remnant or low-demand time on local TV also has a place on the screens in coffee shops, fitness centers, bars and elevators, and much more, that typify place-based networks.

The release is a lot of blah-blah about the revenue potential of the Digital OOH marketplace and rVue’s go to market approach, and pretty much absent of any detail about how this infomercial thing might work. However, Chris Hall from Digital Signage Today rang up rVue head Jason Kates and got some detail.

Per the partnership, rVue has created a “content deck,” where network operators will be able to grab, for instance, a 90-second commercial to play on their screens. The spots will each have unique phone numbers, Kates said, so networks are paid based on how many products are sold using that particular number.

Being advertised are high-quality, “as-seen-on-TV” products such as the “Magic Bullet” and “Baby Bullet” blenders, Kates said.

Most people already know what the products are, Kates said, but seeing them on digital signage offers a different kind of convergence than seeing them at home on TV.

“In digital out-of-home we’ve got a very unique opportunity because we’re dealing with consumers, not an audience,” he said. “They’re out, they’re not sitting at home in their pajamas. They’re out; they’ve got their wallet in their pants or their purse; so that really creates what we believe is a very unique opportunity for direct response for our space.”

And all of this is basically just another way of making DOOH an interactive medium, he said.

“This is all actually interactive advertising; the ability to use mobile tied in with digital out-of-home is just fundamental,” he said. “Every single ad in digital out-of-home should absolutely have a call to action, whether it’s to text for more information, text for a coupon or to call a 1-800 number, whatever it is; every time it should involve consumer engagement.

A few things.

There is a store at my local mall – I think actually called As Seen On TV – that sells all these gadgets and miracle thingies. THAT store should be running those spots, because the stuff is on the shelves. But all they had running, when last I strayed into it, was a DVD player and an endless loop for something.

Hardware and mass merchandise stores, as well as grocers, have been running infomercials for as long as there has been VHS tapes and then DVDs.

So there’s precedent. But in those cases, the goods are sold right there and the idea is all about impulse buying.

The suggestion here is that:

1 – Consumers will stop in a store, mall or other public place and watch infomercials, which typically are much lengthier than conventional video advertising spots. In this case, the suggestion is 90 seconds;

2 – They will whip out their smartphones and CALL IN THE NEXT FIVE MINUTES to get the special offer, using a lengthy number tagged to that network;

3 – The venues and staff will be happy hearing, all day long, about how the revolutionary motorized Go Duster makes dusting faster, easier and more fun than you ever imagined!

4 – Digital OOH networks will be comfortable having infomercials in a rotation with the big dollar regional and national advertisers they covet, and that those big dollars advertisers will be happy seeing their products butted up against the flotsam of 3 AM TV.

5 – The venues – retailers, facilities or whatever – will be happy about a programming that likely never mentioned ANYTHING about longer-form infomercials in the agreement.

In a weird way I kinda like this idea, or maybe just the notion of rVue at least trying something a little different. The company’s heritage is in content production and Kates knows a thing or two about what programming can work in retail.

But I really don’t see this getting a lot of traction. The major networks, which will continue to gobble up the good regional or vertically-oriented networks, are spending their time in front of agencies trying to sell the quality of the audience and the engagement of the medium. Though they all would love to tap TV budgets, I doubt many want to be associated with direct response local TV advertising.

I am not buying the idea that this will stimulate impulse phone calls, or that this is any more interactive an advertising pitch than a billboard with a phone number on it.

The hyper-local and regional Digital OOH network guys might gulp and sign up for anything that adds a  few bucks to the bottom line, but I don’t see a big future for any network that relies on that money to pay the bills.

This medium is about content and context, and infomercials in a Digital OOH setting is in most – not all – cases wrong on both of those.

The marketplace will, of course, decide on the merits of this idea.


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