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10 Minutes to Make the Case

Thursday,Apr 24,2014

Every product vendor wants lots of time to show off their product, but most vendors do not get what they want. Item timing is an art and is contingent on tons of factors. If there is one chair I would not want to sit in at the network it is the seat of the planner. It is a planner’s job to evaluate all the factors effecting an item’s performance and attempt to maximize its chances of success by assigning it the correct day, hour, placement within that hour, item timing and pricing. They must be fortune-tellers, hinging their careers on predicting the outcome of future airings and they work long hours, many times re-writing shows last minute due to the ripple effect one item can have on many others. Let me give you an example (try to stick with me, here):
You are a vendor who has the opportunity to sell pillows on live retail television. You have been given 10 minutes in the 7am hour of July 15th to do this and you are a bit upset by the short amount of time given to your item. Your pillows are feature-laden and need far more time to do them justice. However, what you do not understand is WHY you were given that amount of time. Let’s rewind back into the planner’s head when that timing was assigned:
After digging into past performance of such items, the planner has discovered that pillows, in general, are a quick decision for people. Pillows do not require the contemplation before making the buying decision that other items require. The planner knows that your price-point is less than $30 for your item, meaning that most buyers will jump on board quickly. However, there are other new items in your hour that are far pricier and will require more thought. At under $30, your item is known as a “line-lighter.” It is strategically placed at the top of an hour to generate viewer interest in bedding before leading them into more expensive products. Your item is currently untested, but if it performs well, the top of the hour is certainly the place for it. Also, the previous 3 hours were electronics items. Making the switch from electronics to bedding is not an easy one. Typically, electronics and bedding attract different viewers, so your item will work well at the top of the hour to attract new buyers for bedding. However, it is 7am…4am in California. Only the east coast of the US is awake. Because you are untested and your success is highly contingent on presentation, talent, etc., this is your test run to see if your product and presentation are viable. You will be vetted with limited timing when the stakes are low before being granted higher-stakes shows. Prime time is for heavy hitters. The planner also knows that Thursdays in October are historically high season for bedding. Your item is being introduced in July. When bedding hours are taken as a whole at that time of year, viewers respond better to a large variety of buying options, rather than focusing on just a few…more items in an hour means less time for each one. The item after you is a proven performer, grossing big sales each time it airs. The host, producer and planner will be anxious to get to it to start the guaranteed sales rolling in. Pillow configurations at under $40 have been documented over decades to attract the most buyers at around 8 minutes into a presentation, after which, the calls begin to slack off. Since the purchases being made on the downward slope of that bell curve are people who have seen the item and finally made it to their phone or computer a few minutes later, it does not make sense to keep the item on the air much longer. It is better to begin showing the next item and start attracting new purchasers as the residual sales from your item trickle in.
I am just scratching the surface, here. Every time I consider the job of the network planner, I cannot believe it is done by people. It seems there must be a super-computer loaded with insanely complex algorithms to calculate all the factors leading to item timing and positioning. Planners get it wrong sometimes. On occasion, I have launched off an email to a planner informing them of some snippet of information that could alter their perspective on an item’s timing or positioning. However, realize that when a planner makes that decision, they are typically working with a very deep well of information none of us have. They are not just stabbing in the dark. They have more understanding of your item within the TV environment than you can imagine! There are times in your life that control must be relinquished to a trusted source. Attorneys, doctors…network planners. They usually have more information than we do and although they do make mistakes, they surprise me all the time with how accurate they can really be with their predictions!

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