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D2C Goes Digital featuring Collette Liantonio for her 2014 ERA Lifetime Achievement Award!

ERA’s annual convention emphasizes multichannel marketing with new educational content, the Moxie Awards, and more

D2C Goes Digital

ERA’s annual D2C Convention closed out another successful show on Sept. 18 after hosting more than 3,400 professionals at the Wynn Las Vegas for three days of education, networking, and dealmaking.

Themed “Branch Into New Growth With Smarter Multichannel Strategies,” this year’s show concentrated on tapping a marketplace in which consumers use many digital channels in addition to television to shop. “We know this shift is difficult,” said Julie Coons, ERA’s president and CEO, in launching the show. “Collectively, we need to take a big step forward.”

Underlining the shift to multichannel strategies, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, founder and chairman of the online video shopping network Joyus, delivered the D2C keynote address, “Internet Is the New TV: Using Video Commerce to Unlock Sales Online.” Shoppers increasingly turn to video first for product information, she said. “More than 70 percent of consumers watch an online video at least once a week, [and] mobile [is] accelerating that move.”

Joyus’ strategy is to offer curated marketing content in support of selling “1,000 of one item” like traditional DRTV advertisers, rather than compete with anything-and-everything marketplaces like Amazon. “But while video adoption is skyrocketing, monetization is not so great,” she said. “I feel like we’re in the early days. Television went through this evolution, and this is what I see happening online.”

The company has been successful at attracting buyers and building relationships, however, and measures its average revenues at 83 cents per view—a vast improvement over
YouTube’s 0.07 cents per view. To launch a video promotion, she says, start with your e-mail prospect list: “They are interested in your product; they are interested in your content; they are likely to convert.”

From there, online video and DR are similar, though online video content offers scalability and may require an adjustment in voice to reach buyers. “The reality is that 70 percent of it is the same fundamental principles—great merchandising, great storytelling, great service,” Singh Cassidy advised. “Go back [to] the principles that have worked for you in the past and dip your toe in the water.”

Content Is King

Educational sessions continued the omnichannel theme throughout the show, providing the many attendees with direction for future marketing efforts. On the first day, ERA offered three Direct Response 101 panel discussions to cover the basics of offline, online, and omnichannel marketing strategies. “Omnichannel is the new ecosystem,” said Elliott Segal, senior vice president of International Production for Guthy-Renker, LLC, and immediate past chairman of ERA. “We need to understand what touchpoints people are engaging with throughout the day.”

The ultimate answer to creating an effective conversion funnel is for marketers to be everywhere at once, panelists said. “Content is king,” said Dawn DuMont-Perdew, president of the DuMont Project, in “Direct Response 101 (Part 2), Online: Your Direct Response E-Commerce and Digital Strategy.” “When people want something, you have [to] make yourself visible and available to them.”

But the reality is that there are no longer people who can be considered native to a particular media; most consumers connect to several traditional and new-media channels every day. “Your consumers are bouncing between messages,” said Erica DePalma, vice president of Digital Marketing for Media Horizons, Inc. “Make sure you have a consistent, branded presence, because it is very important that the messaging and the offer are aligned across exposures.”

For as many data points that the Web and mobile add to the marketing mix, however, online strategies have allowed marketers to test campaigns faster and cheaper, panelists added. Additional sessions discussed monetizing Facebook, email marketing, and other online strategies.

Day two moved educational sessions to the D2C Think Tank and Learning Lounge on the show floor, where speakers and panels continued to concentrate on Web 3.0 (a.k.a. “social commerce”) topics. “If you’re going to do online video, you’re going to want to think a lot about strategy,” said Charles Voloshin, digital marketing manager for Portland, Ore.-based Wacom, in “Five Things You Need to Know about Online Video.” The company primarily uses YouTube videos to sell its high-end drawing tablets, he said, and Google Analytics to view the purchase funnel. “We can actually see when they bought.”

ERA also organized a last-minute session to help marketers understand and address one of the most pressing issues facing the industry: Operation Choke Point. Manatt’s Linda Goldstein and Venable LLP’s Ellen Berge and Jeffrey D. Knowles talked about the regulatory initiative and its chilling effect on payment processing.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) started increasing scrutiny of support businesses at the start of the Great Recession, Knowles said, and has accelerated its actions since. “The FTC is using its authority to go after not only merchants, but also payment processors [it alleges] are either aiding and abetting the actions of merchants or helping merchants facilitate mass fraud on consumers.”

Negative option marketers are at especially high risk from FTC, Department of Consumer Protection, and Department of Justice action, since they often have high chargeback and refund rates. FTC can hold payment processors responsible for the “entire consumer injury” or entire processing volume of a product it says employed fraudulent marketing practices—in other words, everything it earns. “The whole risk model is changing,” Knowles said.

Day three featured more networking on the show floor, additional sessions including a special “State of the Industry” talk featuring Media Analytics CEO Jeff White and ERA’s Julie Coons, and the conclusion of the InventHelp-INPEX New Product Showcase and Pitch by the Pros. This year’s winner? Sean Forhan and his Ballroom Dance Fitness program.

Throughout, marketers brainstormed ideas on the show floor, and in the conference rooms and lounges of the Wynn. “Every year, I come in trying to find one or two innovative ways people are doing things, and this year I’m coming out with handful,” said Tim Pearson, senior vice president of Direct Holdings Global. “People are getting smarter about how they control their data. There are some pretty sophisticated models on the numbers side. In the past, it was entrepreneurial courage; now, it seems like fewer companies are using calculated ways of going to market.”

Concepts Team with Co in the middle

Celebrity Guests

Chris Reinmuth, vice president of Meritus Payment Solutions and ERA chairman, emceed the annual Moxie Awards to close out the show. Punctuated by spoof videos set to the tune of Yakety Yak and Pharrell Williams’ summer megahit Happy and streamed live on the Internet, the gala awarded more than 25 Moxies, recognizing excellence in short- and long-form creative, branding, and presentation.

“The Moxies rock,” said Katie Williams, president of Ideal Living. “This is where we can celebrate all of us—all of the people behind the scenes, and some of the people in front. It’s always a blast.”

Honoring talent, the DR Icon Award went to the “leading lady of daytime television,” Susan Lucci, for her involvement with products such as Youthful Essence, the Malibu Pilates Chair, and home shopping channels. “I never expected anything like this,” Lucci said, in thanking ERA for the award. Speaking of her signature role, “Erica Kane always had the gusto—the moxie—to grab an opportunity when she saw it,” she said. “I’ve always thought that there is a little Erica Kane in all of us—or at least there is in me.”

Lucci discovered the Home Shopping Network during a weekend trip with her husband. Soon after, she was tapped to appear on HSN and QVC, and was always careful to pitch only those products she used and trusted. “I have had the great pleasure and opportunity to work with so many talented and creative people,” she said. “They are artists and marketers. I don’t know what’s next for me in DR, but I know DR is in my blood.”

Collette Liantonio, president of Concepts TV Productions, took the 2014 ERA Lifetime Achievement Award for her 30-year history of producing winning DR campaigns. “I’m honored by this outpouring of love,” Liantonio said. After discovering that she was “a terrible waitress,” she gave up on her first dream, she said—being an actor. After teaching high school, she joined a commercial production company. “I loved the action and getting overnight results. I was hooked.

“In the 35 years I’ve been in the industry, I have seen an amazing change from cutthroat competition to mutual collaboration,” Liantonio added in thanking her staff, clients, partners, and ERA. And while taking the Lifetime Achievement Award has a certain “obituary ring to it,” she said, “I’m not dead yet. In the classic words of our industry, ‘But wait, there’s more!’ ”

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