TV Guide: Expert Advice on Running DRTV Campaigns in the Netflix Age
The way we watch TV is changing. DVR and OnDemand means it’s no longer necessary for viewers to tune in promptly at 8 p.m. to catch their favorite show. Netflix, Hulu and other streaming platforms make it possible to ditch the cable box altogether. And mobile devices are in direct competition for viewer eyeballs—according to Nielsen, 86 percent of tablet owners and 88 percent of smartphone owners use their device while watching television.
For TV fans, it’s never been better. But what does it mean for nonprofit DRTV campaigns? NonProfit PRO asked the experts—Robert Ian French, president of Northern Lights Direct, a direct response ad agency based in Chicago; and John Hamre, executive vice president of direct response for Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla.—to find out.
NonProfit PRO: Can you explain a bit about the changing television landscape and what it means for DRTV campaigns and the nonprofits that undertake them?
Robert Ian French: It is absolutely true that the way people, especially younger people, watch TV is changing and this is affecting DRTV performance. It is no longer entirely possible to show a DRTV commercial and track the response back entirely to that commercial. DRTV can no longer function in isolation.
What we see developing instead is a much more integrated approach, with DRTV being one of many different touchpoints that lead the prospect to becoming your donor. In other words, DRTV is now part of a donor recruitment mosaic that includes online, door-to-door and other mediums working synergistically together.
It is also important to note that despite some decline in viewership, TV remains a very powerful and popular medium. The most recent studies from Nielsen indicate that Americans still watch close to 35 hours of traditional television per week. That’s almost a full work-week of television watching. Even 18-to-24 year olds, who watch the least amount of television of all demographics, still consume 7.5 hours of traditional TV per week. Statistics show that as they get older, partner up and have kids, their TV viewing increases—not decreases.
Furthermore, despite all the hoopla about cable cutting, only 2.8 percent of the population doesn’t have either cable or a broadcast signal. That leaves 97.2 percent of the population still watching television—and many households have multiple televisions.
John Hamre: As with anything else that impacts commercial corporations, the nonprofit industry needs to stay abreast of these changes in broadcasting and technology. The landscape changes much more quickly these days and if you are not keeping pace, you’ll miss an opportunity or be forced out.
NPPRO: It’s not just a shift in television-watching habits, though—in the age of mobile, the way people respond has to be changing, right? How are DRTV campaigns adjusting for this?
RIF: After watching a DRTV commercial, almost all responders go online for more information. However, they will not put your URL in the search bar—instead, they will Google you. Which means every organization needs a digital strategy in place that is specifically designed to capture those searches coming from DRTV, direct them to the correct place (your DRTV landing page), convert as many as possible into donors and put the remainder into a lead management system. We call this process “bridging the DRTV/digital gap.”
- Ensuring your landing page shows up—at minimum—on the first page of returned search results. If you can’t achieve that organically, then a paid search investment is your best bet.
- Creating a landing page that is creatively analogous to the DRTV commercial and is designed to do two things, and only two things: first, convert prospects to donors, and second, capture non-converting prospects’ contact information for future marketing.
- Running an integrated digital campaign that includes display and native.
- Running a digital remarketing/retargeting campaign including banner ads.
- An aggressive CRM campaign to engage remaining prospects.
- There is also a role for outbound telemarketing in reaching prospects. Not very popular, but effective.
If you consider DRTV and digital as individual campaigns, you may see results you can’t quite quantify. If your search people are not actively helping find and direct traffic to your DRTV landing page, you are throwing donors away. By taking a step back and looking at DRTV and digital as one holistic, integrated campaign, you will soon recognize that the real power lies in how the channels complement each other to deliver the maximum ROI.
JH: We have found we get a higher percentage of donors going to the microsite to process their monthly gift rather than by designating a gift through the phone. Leveraging technology resources is very important to our success since more donors use the digital avenue more so than the telephone. Tracking, acknowledging and communicating to new highly valuable donors will ensure our future success.
NPPRO: Does DRTV work better for small nonprofits operating on smaller budgets than their larger peers?
RIF: I don’t think the size of the nonprofit is the most important question when considering whether DRTV will work for particular organization. The bigger question is whether the organization’s mission lends itself to DRTV.
In other words, can the need they are trying to alleviate be communicated visually? Is it a cause which lends itself to mass marketing? (TV is still considered a mass medium relative to online.) Does the organization have the funds to produce and run a successful DRTV campaign including production, media time, call center, search campaign, etc.?
DRTV is not applicable to every organization. But, for the right organization, it can be a powerful way to attract monthly donors while also building brand and raising an organization’s public profile. It also has a halo effect on all other mediums in the market, lifting the performance of other mediums, including door-to-door, digital and direct mail.
NPPRO: What are some common mistakes nonprofits make in their DRTV efforts?
JH: In WWP DRTV commercials, we ask for the donation frequently during the spot. We also make it very easy for the potential donor to complete the donation process. The biggest mistake would be to not ask for a donation multiple times and creating a complicated process for the donor to give.
NPPRO: What’s the most creative or successful nonprofit DRTV campaign you’ve worked on?
RIF: The campaign we are most proud of right now is one we have been running for many years for SickKids Hospital Foundation in Toronto. Using 30-minute, 60-minute and even two-hour programs, we tell the story of how important SickKids is for children suffering through life-threatening illnesses and for the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who love them.
The stories are highly emotional, yet conveyed with sympathy and grace. Through these programs, we have been able to motivate thousands of people to join the SickKids Miracle Club and help sustain the phenomenal work of this organization.
Many hospital foundations would be afraid to feature such raw, emotional stories, and we are proud of the fact that we have been able to tell these stories in a way that is both respectful to the patients and resonates with prospective donors.