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Collette Liantonio’s Latest Article For Response Magazine

Repair Rather Than Replace

Housewares products hit the right note in tough times

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by Collette Liantonio,                                                                   from the March issue of Response Magazine

 

 

 

Since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, DR agencies have been faced with one tough question that overrides all others for their clients: How can a consumer justify a purchase when he or she is barely holding on to a job or a home?

It’s not easy. When DRTV commercial producers create a spot or long-form infomercial, defining the true value of a product is crucial to the sale. Getting the consumer to grasp that he or she is, in fact, getting a great deal for a great product is tougher than ever. One needs to look no further than the explosion of “buy one, get one free” offers being used to prompt consumer action.

Consumers can’t afford to replace major household products when money is tight. The need for home improvement doesn’t go away. It just means consumers have to look in another direction.

Perhaps that’s why the housewares space continues to be very good to DR marketers. Rather than replacing worn out items, or spending thousands on home improvement projects that were all the rage in the home equity heyday of 10 years ago, consumers are now looking for low-cost replacements until the economy turns around.

Three products from Hampton Direct have had great success — Twin Draft Guard, Wonder Hanger and Furniture Fix. In each case, the product was built for DRTV demonstration. Each was a simple, inexpensive solution rather than an expensive replacement.

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Consumers on a budget simply felt more comfortable utilizing a quality product like Twin Draft Guard, rather than contracting out for a complete weather-stripping job on their homes. By using Wonder Hangers, they also were able to find a simple and easy way to expand their closet space, without knocking out walls to rebuild their closets. And rather than shelling out $1,000 for a new living room set, they were able to easily repair sagging chairs and couches with Furniture Fix.

While each of these products hit a sweet spot during the Great Recession, they still required an eye for the production capabilities particular to direct response marketing. Any successful DRTV campaign is built around amazing product demonstrations that cut through the clutter of a crowded television landscape and turn ever-skeptical consumers into customers.

In the Furniture Fix spot, sumo wrestlers weighing a combined 1,000 pounds sit together on a couch using Furniture Fix to emphasize the product’s strength. In the Wonder Hanger spot, the product supports a 20-pound weight. The difference that proper creative development can make to allow your campaign to cut through the clutter is immeasurable. At the same time, it’s crucial that your producer knows the leaders in the DR space to connect you to other capable vendors. If your producer doesn’t have a complete DRTV network, beware.

Still, the ultimate key is that the right DRTV production agency can help you find the right message to reach the right consumer. And with the right producer — one that understands your product, whether it falls into the housewares vertical or beauty or fitness — your product stands a much better chance of finding its way into consumers’ homes, even in a difficult economy.

 

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Pajama Jeans Featured in Response Magazine

Pajama Jeans, a Moxie award winner and one of Concepts’ biggest hits, are featured in the March issue of Response Magazine.  Response spoke to Concepts’ president Collette Liantonio and Sonia Makurdsik, exclusive marketing consultant for Hampton Direct about this worldwide phenomenon.

A Comfortable Fit for DRTV

By: Nicole Urso

Kathy Griffin owns wearing her PajamaJeans.

“I am in PajamaJeans, and I’m not a paid spokesperson, I’m just saying they’re pajamas and jeans in one. They have no zipper, you just lift them up and down,” she said as she demonstrated the elastic waistband during a segment of Griffin’s “Emmy’s Aftermath.”

Wendy Williams is also a fan. She bedazzled her famous catchphrase “How U Doin’?” onto the backside of a pair and gave them to guest Holly Madison. Then she surprised her studio audience and sent them home with a pair, too.

The famous As Seen On TV jeans have appeared on the “Today Show,” “Today with Kathie Lee & Hoda,” “Good Morning America,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Nightline,” MTV, “The Jimmy Kimmel Show” and “Conan O’Brien.”

“Once the PR took off, it took on its own life, and the pop culture appeal of the product was the big home run,” says Steve Heroux, CEO of Burlington, Vt.-based Hampton Direct.

The wildfire popularity of PajamaJeans draws obvious comparisons to the Snuggie, a loungewear novelty and celebration of comfort that debuted in 2008. The famous blanket with sleeves went on to major retail success, which is exactly what Heroux set out to achieve when he first took over the exclusive licensing and distribution of PajamaJeans in 2010.

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The Perfect Pair

PajamaJeans are designed to have the look of jeans and the feel of pajamas. They are made of a stretchy blend of cotton and spandex with an interior lining of DormiSoft, a proprietary fabric that feels like the inside of sweatpants. They were developed and originally sold by PajamaGram, sister brand of The Vermont Teddy Bear Co., and just a 20-minute drive south from Hampton Direct.

PajamaGram sells “gifts of relaxation” including pajama gift sets and the Hoodie-Footie, a head-to-toe, zip-front onesie for adults and kids. It launched PajamaJeans in 2009 and sold them through its catalog and website for $59.95, but it was the first PajamaJeans TV commercial that caught Heroux’s attention.

“I think their business model was a little bit different than what I felt PajamaJeans needed, so I had a couple meetings with their CEO John Gilbert, and we went back and forth and signed an exclusive agreement to do all of their distribution in the summer of 2010. That is when we took over the project and the brand,” says Heroux, a member of the Response Advisory Board.

Heroux called in his right-hand direct marketing sage, Sonia Makurdsik, to help him develop the campaign. Makurdsik has been the exclusive marketing consultant for Hampton Direct since 2005 and helped bring products to retail including the Total Pillow and Wonder Hanger. The two met at QVC. Makurdsik was producing direct response spots while Heroux would pitch products from various vendors. Makurdsik joined Hampton Direct last month officially as the new executive vice president of marketing.

Her work on PajamaJeans started with the requisite market research where she identified a trend in comfort wear but a need for stylish options.

“You see college kids going to school in pajamas,” says Makurdsik. “You see the very expensive sweatsuits being worn in the airports. You see how Crocs became its own brand in itself, and doctors and nurses were wearing them. We saw Uggs, that style, that comfort wear, and the message was there.”

She worked with the creative team to re-shoot a new PajamaJeans commercial in a direct response format. With the help of Concepts TV Productions, they made 60- and 120-second short-form commercials explaining the features — the look of denim with pocket embroidery, brass details and flared bootcut — and the benefit of comfort with the elastic waistband and DormiSoft fabric technology.

Collette Liantonio, president of Concepts TV Productions, says, “Our challenge was to cast a variety of models with various body types who would look comfy, yet trendy. Fortunately, the jeans flatter almost every figure.”

The commercial also demonstrates various uses of PajamaJeans for today’s modern multitasking women, from traveling and working out to toting around the kids. They come in 8 sizes, ranging from extra small (size 4) to 3 XL (sizes 26-28), all with a 31-inch inseam. Styles include a blue bootcut and the new black skinny, which is sold exclusively online.

Makurdsik, a modern mom who travels frequently, owns two pairs of the blue bootcut. “Personally, because I travel so much, I love them because I can run around the airport and don’t need to deal with sitting so long and getting those marks. It feels like I have sweats, but yet I can go out to a client meeting after I arrive at the airport.”

To read the entire article, please click here.

 

 

 

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Collette Liantonio featured in Response Magazine

Collette Liantonio, President of Concepts TV Productions is featured in the March issue of Response Magazine, speaking about how technology has helped producers work smarter and more efficiently in a challenging economic environment.

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DRTV producers focus on quality shows that entice consumers and add value to their lives.

One Hit at a Time

 

By: Bridget McCrea

The recent recession changed the way a lot of companies do business. And while the DRTV industry as a whole was somewhat insulated from its effects, both long-form and short-form producers have learned to work smarter, better and faster in the challenging environment.

The fact that modern-day technology and sites like YouTube have turned all of us into videographers has put even more pressure on the professionals. “All of my children got HD cameras for Christmas this year and their production quality is incredible,” says Collette Liantonio, president at Boonton, N.J.-based Concepts TV Productions. “But there’s more to developing DRTV campaigns than just a camera; people don’t always appreciate the fact that we’re DR gurus and not just producers.”

That lack of appreciation has pushed key players in the industry to find less expensive production techniques — all the while maintaining (or enhancing) the overall look, feel and effectiveness of the campaigns themselves. Technology helps producers achieve this balancing act, what with the myriad production techniques (like green screens) and editing suites (which allow remote parties to work on the computer from their own location) that are available on the market today.

“We don’t have to send rough cuts out of the state or country for client review and approval anymore,” says Liantonio. “We all get into the virtual editing suite and get the job done much more efficiently.”

Liantonio also uses virtual backgrounds when shooting testimonials to minimize crew and costs that add up when working on location. “As long as it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the testimonial’s message,” she says, “it’s a great way to save both time and money.”

To stay on top of the game, the most experienced producers are making sure to stay in tune to the key trends, opportunities and challenges currently impacting short- and long-form production.

Going Short

Rolling up Their Sleeves

Short-form producers rolled up their sleeves in 2011 and found innovative ways to meet higher production standards without breaking budgets. “Even emerging, entrepreneurial brands are demanding higher production values, knowing that those values are vital to building a business that can compete with established brands,” says Tim Hawthorne, chairman and executive creative director at Hawthorne Direct in Fairfield, Iowa, and member of the Response Advisory Board.

Concurrently, “faster and cheaper seem to be a growing trend,” says Hawthorne, who increasingly turns to technology to help achieve the delicate balance between high production values and smaller budgets. “Client requests for faster, cheaper shows is not a positive trend for the industry,” adds Hawthorne, “but it’s certainly representative of the current economic climate.”

To augment its clients’ short-form campaigns in a cost-effective manner, Hawthorne Direct incorporates online video into all websites; actively uses social networking for research and “listening” to consumer feedback; uses SMS text as a response mechanism; and is experimenting with the use of QR codes.

Liantonio says the Web has become a hotbed for short-form testing. Some test shows are created with an in-house camera, no set price points, and few, if any, production values. Those efforts have pushed short-form producers into the role of Web designers.

“That’s a big change that’s taken place in our industry,” says Liantonio. “If you can’t do Web design, you really can’t be in short-form production.”

Taking Center Stage

Concepts TV’s biggest short-form successes over the past year included Miracle Socks, which are compression socks designed for the senior market, and the Sift & Toss cat litter system. The Miracle Socks campaign honed in on phone sales, based on the target demographic, while Sift & Toss capitalized on the Web, social media and mobile, the latter of which increased product sales by 12 percent.

Web and social media have also taken center stage at THOR Associates in New York, where CEO and Founder Fern Lee says all marketing efforts revolve around multichannel platforms.

“When developing creative we make sure to have assets that can be culled down to 10 seconds, 15 seconds and 30 seconds,” explains Lee, a member of the Response Advisory Board, “so that the DR can drive to retail and have media assets for all digital use — from social networking to affiliate marketing.”

THOR’s short-form hits for 2011 included Looney Tunes ClickN Read Phonics. That campaign required Lee and her team to shoot a show that included more than 20 children, animation from Looney Tunes and a Spanish-language version.

“We were able to integrate digital and traditional direct marketing touch points for a strong ROI,” says Lee, “and a very successful campaign.”

To read the entire article, click here.

 

10 Secrets To Slashing Production Costs


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By Collette Liantonio,                                                         President Concepts TV Productions

 

In these recessionary times, every advertiser wants to know how to cut the costs of producing a direct response commercial. Thanks to advances in digital technology (every 5-year-old has a broadcast quality camera), the hard costs associated with “filming” have decreased substantially.

Everyone owns a video camera, but they have yet to replace the talented DP, the lighting director who makes your product come alive.

Everyone can “write,” but few can write a compelling script.

Everyone can create a YouTube spoof, but few can create a commercial that can persuade the consumer to reach into his pocket within 60 seconds and purchase your product instantly. Experienced DRTV producers can deliver truly astonishing campaigns that measure results in millions, even billions, of dollars.

So how does one cut costs? Here are seven simple tips that can slash your production costs.

1. Less is more.

Shoot on a white cyc wall. Shoot every demonstration, every testimonial and every product beauty shot on a clean white background. Use elegant graphics and you have a simple, upscale “art-directed” spot as elegant as an apple iPod. One simple studio set up … no costly location, no cheesy attempts at demonstrating 101 product uses.

2. Enter the “Land of Make-Believe,” also known as the virtual set.

Shoot on a “green” screen and use “jump backs,” libraries of graphic backgrounds that visually complement your product. Or shoot empty living rooms, laboratories, offices, cityscapes and superimpose the actors you shot on a “green screen.” These virtual “sets” are also available through stock film libraries at greatly reduced prices thanks to digital advances.

3. Skip the orchestra.

Unless you’re selling music – and that is a dying business – the background music should be just that. Background! Use a needle drop from your producer’s music library and pay the much more affordable license fee rather than paying for an original music score.

4. Set building is so yesterday.

Why buy when you can rent a house? Find an attractively decorated home with large rooms and a mellow homeowner and for a few hundred dollars you can demonstrate most household items efficiently and affordably – except in the state of California where each homeowner believes his bungalow should command a $5,000 location fee. While spacious bathrooms and kitchens can be rare animals, a few well placed ads in libraries, supermarkets and Craigslist can yield a set that rivals any Hollywood sound stage.

5. Save money by NOT using friends and family.

Your niece is adorable, but her Mom does not want to take her out of school until 4 p.m. the day of the shoot resulting in overtime. Your sister believes she should be paid half the profits for her cameo appearance. Your daughter does a “deer in the headlights” freeze on camera and wastes an expensive hour of shooting time, and friends and family cannot endorse your product legally. In short, leave casting to the professionals.

It really pays to negotiate all terms and conditions before you shoot. You may hire an actor to appear in just one scene for your direct response commercial but today more than ever, chances are that actor will appear in the web spot, on the package and possibly in a print ad. Negotiate all rights up front and you won’t be held hostage for additional monies when you have a successful spot.

Unless you are hiring a bona fide celebrity, the cost of talent should not break the bank. And think long and hard before you do sign a celebrity…the cost can outweigh the return on investment if the celebrity is not the ideal representative for the product.

Hire the best demonstrator/host available and reward his performance with a bonus based on sales. Remember to negotiate all rights to TV, home shopping appearances, and international rights.

6. About those testimonials …

Nothing sells like a sincerely satisfied user. Real people in real situations sell products, but it’s very time consuming to develop or gather a group that is willing to endorse your product on camera. Come to the negotiating table with those testimonials and save the producer the labor intensive task of searching for them and you’ve saved a bundle. But don’t scrimp on unretouched “before” and “after” shots. They are the magic moments in any beauty or fitness infomercial and worth their weight in gold.

Testimonials are the lifeblood of the infomercials. If you spend the time and money to develop those satisfied users before you select a producer, the process is much less costly and the producer can make the final selections.

7. “Ask the Man on the Street”

Go to your local mall, indoor or outdoor, or set up a camera and microphone on a busy “Main Street” or coffee shop (make sure you acquire permits or permission from the merchants) and try your products out on passersby or shoppers. The genuine responses from first time users will provide authenticity. Just be certain to acquire releases and use the proper disclaimers in the commercials. It helps to bring a few production assistants to wrangle the shoppers. Signage, balloons and a make-up artist should create the necessary buzz to attract a variety of curious demonstrators.

8. Prepare properly for “Tweaking”

Some of the most successful spots require a “tweak” or two. Maybes it’s just a price point change or maybe it’s a new premium or giveaway at the end of the spot, but those changes can be very costly if not prepared for early on, as in before you shoot and before you record the voiceover. To save money on post production, plan to shoot different product configurations and bonus items at the time of the initial shoot. Therefore, if you want to test an “A-B” split you can easily re-edit a spot with an alternate ending. Voiceovers should be recorded with many different price points so you can re-test later without re-recording expensive audio artists in expensive audio recording studios.

Producers who constantly work with crews and studios, actors and voiceover artists can negotiate the best rates using experienced producers is less expensive in the long run.

9. Shorten the approvals process

Again, thanks to the wonders of technology, the entire process of editing can be streamlined with a radically shortened timeline. Now instead of the “back and forth” between client and producer for approvals, the client can virtually attend the edit session in real time via Skype or “IChat.” The savings in time and travel is formidable and it helps accommodate long distance clients (it’s a free service internationally).

One of the best ways to reach consensus is to create detailed storyboards in advance of a shoot. Although you provide clients with a script or blueprint, it’s always an eye opener to realize how differently people interpret “the visuals”. It helps with talent selection, prop selection, location, and graphic elements.

10. Hire an experienced producer who works with other experienced professionals in DRTV.

Any commercial production can only perform for you if you have the right media placement, the right Web presence, the right telemarketing service and the right fulfillment company. Remember, if the phone isn’t answered or the URL isn’t “live” when you air your spots, you will not get a refund. Add up the media money spent and the cost of the commercial that no one viewed. There will be no ROI and that’s an expensive commercial!