10 Tips for Cutting DRTV Commercial Costs

By Collette Liantonio

After years of relentless media rate increases, the direct response industry is enjoying (indeed rejoicing in) the abundance of inexpensive airtime.  Lower rates translate to a lower cost per order and the greater possibility of a product succeeding in DRTV.

But while many marketers are prospering during this golden age of direct response, the cost of creating DRTV spots and infomercials has risen dramatically.  By working with a creative team with a winning record and following these 10 smart tips, a savvy marketer can realize tremendous cost savings.

COST-SAVING STEPS

1 Infomercial talent: Hire the best demonstrator/host you can afford.  An infomercial is only as good as the host.  An on-camera spokesperson who can sell with integrity is worth every penny.  Pay them fairly up front or negotiate a sales commission or rollout bonus, but always hire a seasoned pro.  Negotiate all rights to TV, packaging and home sopping appearances for local and international broadcast.  Negotiate prior to airing for future years of success.

2 Product offer: Shoot all possible product configuration.  Whether you are offering four widgets and two bonuses or six widgets and doubling the deal, plan to capture all configurations on days of the shoot.  Rather than waste valuable time arranging and re-arranging products, shoot all the products on a green screen and then you can “cut them out” and reconfigure the offer in the edit suite.  This is invaluable when you are testing the viability or more than one offer and helps to avoid costly re-shooting.

3 Location: Don’t build an elaborate set or pay for an expensive studio.  Scout a large, tastefully decorated home with a mellow homeowner and pay a fraction of studio fees.

4 Crew: The biggest production costs are the crew and equipment.  Anyone straight out of film school can operate a camera, but good lighting is crucial to commercial production and can make or break a product’s success.  Poor audio or washed out video can seriously impact the credibility of a production and the belief in the quality of a product.  Lost credibility translates into lost sales.

5 Testimonial development/Sound bites: While testimonials are of secondary importance for a short-form spot, they are the lifeblood of the infomercial.  Clients should spend the time and effort developing testimonials in-house.  Only then should they hire the production team to make the final selections.  The interview process is a very labor-intensive expense that can be managed more efficiently by the client.

6 Travel expenses: If it’s necessary to travel to various locations, whenever possible utilize local crews rather than flying your crew to the location.  Use the same format (HD, SD, or Digibeta), but save the costs of hotel and airfare.  When using testimonials from around the country, fly them to you and shoot them all in two or three intense days at one location.

7 Catering: Skip the “L.A.-style craft services” and feed the crew and clients good deli or top-shelf pizza.  (No Chinese food or your crew will go to sleep after lunch.)  But always feed the crew on time and treat everyone to an afternoon “sweet treat” pick-me-up.  A well-fed crew works harder.

8 Audio/Music: Skip the “original score” and use a needle drop.  Don’t get crazy-music is very subjective.  Just don’t let it be too noticeable.  The voiceover is a vitally important element.  Don’t skimp on experienced voiceover talent.  Do record additional offers or later “tweaks.”

9 Editing: The magic of most DRTV productions is created in the edit suite.  The pacing, the angles, the sound mix, eye-catching graphics, the elegant touches…it all takes place here.

10 Creative: There’s no substitute for experience–if you don’t have any, hire the people who do and then work together to create a hard-working show that will bankroll the more expensive production you’ll work on next time.

Don’t get too creative on your first try.  Use the “problem-solution” DRTV formula to see if your product is a home run, marginal or a dog.  If it’s a dog, walk away and don’t send good money after bad.  If it’s marginal, tweak it by testing price points and offers.  If it’s a home run, buy your producer a good bottle of Piper Heidsieck or (my favorite) Malbec wine and plan your rollout.