POV: Interview with Steven Morvay, President at Acquirgy
Steven Morvay is the president and COO of Acquirgy, a full service direct response marketing agency with offices in Florida and New York. Acquirgy specializes in tracking the ROI of DRTV campaigns through search marketing tactics, but works across all disciplines in marketing on digital and traditional platforms.
Welcome to The Agency Post. How did you get started in advertising?
After graduating from the Newhouse School of Communications, I started my career as an assistant media planner at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising in New York. I had two offers at the time: one from O&M and one from Benton and Bowles. B and B offered $6,500 per year, Ogilvy offered $7,500 – plus overtime, of course. I went with Ogilvy and became a total David Ogilvy disciple. I eventually moved into account service and worked on General Foods, TWA for North America and Europe and Procter & Gamble at Wells, Rich, Greene.
At Wells, I worked on Pringles. The brand was in a free fall at the time. We restaged the business on a “taste strategy” combined with a new, better tasting product, and sales took off. As part of the effort, we ran a commercial with a tag on it that said, “Send us a self-addressed stamped envelope and we’ll send you a coupon for a free can of Pringles.” The response was overwhelming. I was hooked on direct marketing and moved back to O&M Direct. After a few years, I was presented with the opportunity to start Saatchi and Saatchi Direct and jumped at the chance.
You’ve also worked on the client side for major brands. Tell us about your experiences there.
As the CMO at Waldenbooks, we developed and launched the “big box” division, which eventually became Borders Books and Music. My team was also involved in building the company’s frequent buyer program to more than 3 million members and implementing the first database-driven marketing effort directly to retail customers in the book industry.
Wanting to flex my business muscles, I became President of Collier Newfield Inc., an international direct marketer of children’s book clubs and continuity card programs, and spearheaded a major turnaround of the company. It was incredibly hard work with a lot of time away from my family, but I loved the challenge.
Tell us more about Acquirgy and the type of work that you do. How does your agency fill a need in the industry?
Acquirgy is focused on Acquisition Marketing. We develop and execute marketing programs across all digital and traditional platforms driven by immediate and measurable response metrics. Our clients tell us that there is no other agency they are aware of that delivers as strategic and successful digital capability in synergy with traditional marketing platforms. We’ve generated millions of customers and billions in revenue for our clients, including Hoover, Keurig, Euro-Pro, CDW, Canon, Intuit and others.
You’ve had more than 25 years of experience in accounts and direct response. How has this propelled your success with Acquirgy? How have you helped the company grow?
My applicable experience is more in the breadth of types of businesses I have managed or represented than the total years I have been involved in the industry. Working across literally dozens of industry verticals provides a knowledge base that can be tapped to address pretty much any client issue that arises. My experience in both direct marketing and brand advertising across both digital and traditional platforms helps to support our “no silos” culture that I believe is a major factor in creating and implementing incredibly successful, multi-channel efforts for our clients. I’m also very proactive on a daily basis in applying my experience to help build client campaigns that are financially successful. This allows us to retain clients for a long time. There’s no substitute for results and for recommending testing to take advantage of new technologies, platforms, relationships and opportunities.
How do direct response and search fit together? What makes Acquirgy’s model unique in the industry?
Search engine marketing and the Internet itself are perhaps the purest forms of direct marketing ever developed by mankind. Everyone who markets online is a direct marketer. The ability to track and report results in real time creates a volume of data that just begs to be analyzed and understood. Most agencies have some sort of process or positioning in the marketplace that they believe and promote as unique. Acquirgy has those elements of our business as well, but we believe our uniqueness is in our ability to win for our clients. We have numerous examples of taking over a failing or poorly performing account and turning it into a winner. We do that because we have very smart people who will never stop trying to figure out how to win.
Discuss your acquisition energy model. How is it unique in its approach to acquiring new customers and measuring ROI?
Our “energy” comes from working with clients who want a significantly large volume of activity. We don’t work with “niche” marketers. We are applying acquisition skills to moving a lot of people through the funnel. Our uniqueness comes from how we look at the world. We see a consumer being exposed to an ad stimulus in one platform, and then they immediately react by looking for more information or taking an action in a different platform. For example, our proprietary software iTractz allows us to track at a 95 percent accuracy rate the people seeing a commercial on TV but responding online directly back to the source. Our technology allows us to apply the pinpoint data ability of 800 numbers to web-based responses. A critical part to being able to optimize media placements as online response has begun to outpace telephone for many of our clients.
What is the most challenging aspect of creating a direct response campaign? Where do most companies get it wrong?
A couple of areas. First is understanding the critical function of developing a compelling offer. Our teams spend a tremendous amount of time providing “offer engineering” to our clients. There is a learned skill in understanding how the same product or pricing or grouping can be “offered” in many different ways and drive different response rates at different ROI metrics.
Second is understanding that the road to direct response success is a process that involves testing, adjusting and testing again to reach business goals. Companies need to be able to sustain an effort to test, learn and then test again. Too many companies give up when the first effort does not reach goals. You must learn from each effort and build on successes and failures. We work a lot with our clients to guide them in applying the discipline of budgeting accordingly.
How do you determine if DRTV is appropriate for the client?
We work with an extensive list of criteria to determine if the product or service will work on TV. These include pricing, available margins, uniqueness and, perhaps most importantly, how graphically demonstrable the product benefits are to the consumer. The interesting fact is that this list of criteria is expanding. We have spent the past 10 years developing what we call the “retail subsidy” model. We are using DR techniques – infomercials – to drive more retail sales. So, the proposition using DRTV has increased as we continue to understand how the medium drives retail traffic and sales.
How is mobile and tablet usage changing direct response marketing?
Those platforms aren’t really changing our business. They are expanding the business. Each has its own idiosyncrasies that need to be learned and understood. But at the end of the day, the same DR principles apply. The point of understanding that your customer can be exposed to your ad stimulus across literally dozens of platforms and that you need to be able to track that response occurring at a later date on a different platform is only made more critical by mobile and tablets.
During your time at Waldenbooks, you started the first database-driven marketing effort directed towards retail customers in the book industry. How do you think consumer data and analytics have changed the marketing industry? Do you think there are downsides to focusing too much on data and numbers?
In my world, data is truth. Great creative ideas are important as the catalyst to convince people to take actions, but data tells the story. Data trumps opinion. Data verifies genius. The ability to gather, store and retrieve data inexpensively has been the driving force behind the expansion of data-based marketing. Cloud computing has now even reduced the cost further as we don’t even have to buy hardware any more.
How do you see direct response evolving over the next three to five years?
The explosion in available data will continue to provide more information. The continued growth of digital advertising will increase the users and believers in a very concrete and measurable approach to ROI. At the same time, the continued diversification of how consumers ingest content – Hulu, phone, YouTube, Search, tablet, TV, etc. – will make it more and more difficult to track that ROI. We’re all going to have to stay very focused on this part of the equation. We will need to convince the best and brightest graduates to come into our industry and help.
Favorite DRTV campaign: The one with the greatest ROI. I think our work for Euro-Pro, Hoover and Keurig are really terrific. And the numbers back that statement up. As we like to say, creative that doesn’t sell is art — and we are horrible artists!
Mentor: I’ve been blessed with a several mentors over my career
- Myrna Grober Blume at O&M
- Max Bisset at O&M
- Jim Weinstein at Wells Rich Greene
- Paul Soltoff, my current business partner
Must read book: “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care” by T. R. Reid. It’s not about direct marketing, but I think everyone in America should read this book and become better educated on ways to address this incredibly important aspect of our society.
Anything else you’d like to add? No matter how sexy any given new technology sounds, don’t jump in without prudent, careful and sensible testing. If it’s any good, it will last. Stick with what works, but gradually add emerging technologies that you’ve proven to work for your business to your mix.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr user joshuaseye.
Tarah Benner is the associate editor of The Agency Post, where she edits content, researches new technology and writes on industry trends. She's a runner, rower and avid blogger who enjoys curling up on the couch with good pizza and a movie. Her experience includes copywriting, content marketing, digital publishing and writing for the web. You can connect with her on Twitter @TarahBenner or on LinkedIn.