Bark Busters USA’s Bill Marino on DRTV
One year ago, dog training company Bark Busters USA, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., was running direct response radio ads as part of an integrated media campaign to generate leads for its more than 200 U.S. franchise offices spread across 40 states. (Combined with its Australia operations, which launched first in 1989, the entire Bark Busters company features more than 300 offices in eight countries, and has trained more than 350,000 dogs.) Working with full-service advertising agency Advanced Results Marketing (ARM), the firm made an about-face in late summer 2006 to roll all its radio dollars into direct response television (DRTV). According to Bill Marino, CMO of Bark Busters USA, the 30-second spots are branded and use animation to spotlight dog behavioral problems that pet owners want to address. These spots run on national cable channels such as Animal Planet, National Geographic, Lifetime Movie Network and AMC. Marino explains that Bark Busters USA doesn’t use an offer so much as a call to action; leads are funneled to territories based on respondents’ ZIP codes.
Marino chatted with Target Marketing this month, explaining how DRTV fits into Bark Busters USA’s marketing mix and sharing the results of its larger foray into this channel.
Target Marketing: What is Bark Busters USA’s target market?
Bill Marino: Our core audience is dog owners, as you might imagine. But we segment that down to our most-likely-to-book-a-lesson category, and that’s primarily women age 25 to 54. We definitely skewed all of our [DRTV] buys toward that demographic.
TM: Why were you using direct response radio in the past to reach this audience?
BM: Radio was a part of our integrated approach, so we had been using print, radio, some outdoor and some TV. It wasn’t an exclusive radio campaign. We were using radio in two ways: One, to expand markets that we’ve wanted to grow into with additional franchises. So we were doing franchise development through radio, by buying [time in] Chicago or Houston, and things of that nature. Two, we also were using radio to launch new markets once we had new franchises in them.
TM: What convinced you to switch from direct response radio to DRTV?
BM: We have dramatically scaled back radio and significantly increased direct response TV. ARM allowed us to target more effectively and showed us how DRTV could be more cost effective. In many cases, we were able to get better frequency. And with the visual nature of TV, we certainly have the statistics to show that moving to DRTV has pulled much better.
TM: How are you tracking response to your DRTV spots, given the integrated nature of your campaigns?
BM: We certainly believe tracking is important, so we track in two ways. The DRTV drives folks to our national call center with a toll-free number. Then the call center qualifies and tracks the origin of each lead by network; if the caller knows where they saw us, we’re able to track that. We also provide on the spot our Web site address, so we take [visitors] through the same sort of qualifying process through the Web interface. Once a lead is qualified, it’s turned over to a [Bark Busters] behavioral therapist in the [corresponding] ZIP code; on the Web, it’s an automated text-messaging and e-mail-generating system that processes leads.
TM: What results is Bark Busters USA achieving through DRTV?
BM: We did an analysis at the end of last year, after almost four months worth of the shift in campaign structure. We had seen our call volume go up 20 percent and our Web traffic go up 40 percent. What I have seen year-to-date compared to past years—we’re up 22 percent [on call volume] and 41 percent [on Web traffic]. Bookings have increased by 10 percent And, it’s even trending upwards from there. To make an adjustment like this in our media buy and to see that sort of result is what I’d absolutely call outstanding.
This interview appeared in the April 2007 issue of Target Marketing.