Television Campaign Helps Doctors Foster & Smith Become Top Dog
Since mailing its first catalog in 1983, Doctors Foster & Smith gradually has built a name for itself in the direct marketing pet-supplies business. But as of last year, the Rhinelander, Wis.-based cataloger still was searching for a way to propel itself to becoming a household name. So to boost its brand and name recognition, as well as build sales, it launched a TV advertising campaign.
The company signed on with A. Eicoff & Co., a Chicago-based direct response advertising agency specializing in TV marketing. “We wanted people to get to know who we are,” says Gordon Magee, Internet marketing and analysis manager for Doctors Foster & Smith. “We’re leaning more toward branding in this campaign.”
Magee chose Eicoff for its prior experience. Eicoff handles more than half the direct response pet supplies TV ads in the country.
The campaign is a third go-round for the cataloger and Eicoff, “We’re planning for our fourth,” Magee notes.
Eicoff initially ran the ads during syndicated broadcasts on the basic cable networks, Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. Then commercials were later run on such broadcast network programs as “Good Morning America,” “The View” and “Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures,” the animal expert’s nationally syndicated TV series. Currently, the ads can be seen mornings on the nationally syndicated AccuWeather program that runs on digital cable outlets, including Time Warner Cable in New York, Los Angeles and Houston, and Comcast cable systems in Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia, among other markets.
“We had a targeted direct response market at efficient rates and targeted narrow stations [TV stations whose audiences would be interested in pet supplies] — Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, particularly pet shows on these networks,” says Eicoff Senior Vice President Richard Sangerman.
What’s more, the campaign goes after mostly women, the catalog’s primary demographic, Magee says. The spots air during morning programming, a primarily female-dominated time slot.
Ads Air, Sales Rise
The strategy is paying off. Sales increased from $204 million in 2005 to $232 million last year, the campaign’s first year. Magee says total 2007 sales should exceed $250 million. “With the niche that we’re in,” he says, “our results have been strong and evenly distributed across the board.”
As for the ads themselves, the cataloger has gone in a different direction this year. The focus has been to incorporate humor and warmth while “telling a story on someone’s lifestyle,” according to Magee. This signifies a departure from previous product-driven campaigns the company ran in the past. Magee cites incorporating women with their pets in the ads as one example of creating warmth. People who own pets pay attention to this, he says.
Although trying to incorporate a “lifestyle feel” to the ads, the company hasn’t totally abandoned its hard-sell approach. “The commercials are a blend of direct response — we post an 800 number and a URL for customers to contact — and branding,” Magee says.
Looking ahead, there’s no timetable for the ads to stop running. “We review it on a year-by-year basis,” Magee says. “The results were good for 2006. This year, we continued to get a positive response.”
In addition, the company plans to launch its own TV show, featuring the company’s namesakes, Drs. Race Foster and Marty Smith, which will launch in November nationwide on RFD-TV, a channel that targets rural America; plans call for syndication in 115 markets by next February.