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Putting Them On the Spot – Response Magazine

DRTV spots are performing well across the board this year.
BY BRIDGET MCCREA

When Collette Liantonio hunkers down to lay out her plan for a new short-form DRTV spot,
she likes to use a clean slate and original idea. “I like to create spots from scratch,” says
Liantonio, president of Concepts TV Productions in Boonton, N.J. “I don’t even want to
see anyone else’s spots, even if I’m creating a competitive show.”

Fiercely independent and creative, Liantonio was shocked last year when a little birdie told her that a competitor not only copied much of her Better Pasta Pot show, but that he had the gall to run her show on a monitor in the very studio where he was shooting his own pasta pot show. “They studied my show right as they were producing theirs so they could emulate the camera angles that we used,” says Liantonio. “That’s just not right.”

It may not be “right,” but mimicry is very common in an industry characterized by copycats and knockoffs. Liantonio attributes the lapse in judgment to a definite lack of “original brains” in the short-form arena. “It’s not that there can’t be competitive products, but at least write your own script and shoot your own spot,” she says, adding that the race to be “first and best” is getting harder and harder to win in the short-form arena.

Despite the rampant competition, Liantonio says her firm’s Better Pasta Pot did claim its share of the pasta pot-craze, and went neck-and-neck with a similar product for first position. “I know for a fact that one campaign is spending $750,000 per week on media profitably,” says Liantonio. “That’s one in a very crowded field. Once again, it was not a patented item. Everybody and his brother got in the act. It was crazy.”

The craziness comes from one simple source: the fact that short-form spots are hot right now, and everyone is using them – from the gadget producers to the housewares marketers to corporations like Radio Shack and Microsoft. In the past year, many marketers have also begun using spokespeople in their spots – a rarity until just recently, says Liantonio – and using the shows to drive both retail and online sales.

The latter is particularly popular, according to Liantonio. “We’re seeing a lot of short form being used to drive people to web sites,” she says, adding that short form is also being used for higher-ticket items, such as high-tech products. “It’s not all gadgets and gizmos anymore, but those products certainly aren’t suffering either.”

Yet another way marketers are milking more profit out of their $19.95 ceiling on short-form products is by creatively charging double the shipping and handling costs for what – to the consumer – appears to be two separate orders. After agreeing to pay $7.95 shipping and handling on a $19.95 pasta pot, for example, customers are offered a free package of accessories, as long as they pay the $8.95 shipping and handling charge.

Add it up, says Liantonio, and you get a $36.85 short-form product. “$29.95 doesn’t work with short-form housewares and gadgets,” says Liantonio. “This is helping marketers stay on the air at $19.95.”

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