Live from DMA08: Making a Difference: A Conversation with Ty Pennington
October 13, 2008 — DMA08 Conference & Exhibition attendees this morning were treated to a lively dialogue between Ty Pennington, two-time Emmy Award-winner and host of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, and Direct Marketing Association (DMA) President & CEO John A. Greco, Jr. DMA08 is being held through Thursday, October 16, at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Pennington began with a brief solo talk, during which he touched upon his previous role as carpenter on home improvement reality show The Learning Channel’s Trading Spaces. “What was really amazing about Trading Spaces was that it was the first of its kind. . . . It put tools into the consumers’ hands,” said Pennington. “So once they did the room themselves, they wanted to buy the furniture that goes in that room. And then, of course, once they found that connection, that’s when the advertisers came calling.”
Pennington went on to point out that his current television show, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, is particularly well-suited to use product placement in a way that benefits all. “On our particular show the advertiser wins because he gets the ratings. The builder wins because he gets known for building good things. The product gets shown. And first and foremost, the family wins too,” Penning explained. “I think, in a way, it’s the future of television. . . . I think our show has a way of blending the two together that’s actually believable.
After Pennington’s initial talk, he and Greco settled into a question-and-answer session. Below are some excerpts.
Greco: When we think about direct marketing, we think about something called “The Power of Direct,” and we have the 3R’s, which are Relevance, Responsibility, and Results. . . . When you think about your brand, and when you think about making sure that that brand is relevant to the individual, how does that work for you?
Pennington: Whenever I’m thinking about designing a product or making something that I think the consumer is going to want and need, what I think is relevant is ‘how is it changing? What is different today than something designed yesterday?’. . . I think we want things personalized. Just like the notebook you had in high school that you made your own. Like the way we do with our iPods and things we do with the phone covers. Everybody wants it a little bit personalized. The same should be thought of with the home interiors as well, especially with furniture.
Greco: As you think about your brand, and as you think about making sure that brand is sustainable, and that people trust it, what do you do to make sure that you will have a completely trusted and respected brand?
Pennington: I think everyone wants to strive to do better things, and I think that we do have to think about the future and resources we have, and especially with the availability of green [products.] The problem with green right now is that you have to spend a little bit more for a green product right now, but you’re going to save a lot more in the future. But it’s tough to tell that to someone right now and get them to understand that. But I think a lot of people are openly thinking green because of the situation we are in. And because of that I think we’re going to see a lot more in that direction. I think that’s a responsibility that we all really need to put forward.
For me, one of the unique things about my job is I meet families on a daily basis. I walk into their homes, see how they’re living. . . . You find out what’s really important to families, what they do spend their money on, what they do focus on, and what’s important in their lives. And in that sense, I really find out what needs are . . . and I really get to find out what’s going to mean the most to someone. I get an insight into what families are like . . . and what products they use on a daily basis.
Greco: So much comes from the good that you do. . . . You make so much of a difference now. You’ve done so much good for so many people. Where do you go from here?
Pennington: I think I’ve just scratched the surface on what can be done out there. I’ve witnessed incredible things in the sense of the human spirit. Our show is only 40 minutes. We don’t have time to get into details of what happens out there in the process. . . .We all want to succeed, but we also want to help one another in the process. We see humans coming together to help each other because we realize we’re the only thing we have. Considering what the economy is going through right now. People are going to have to get along, and we’re going to have to make it work.
The future is unknown. I hope I continue doing what I’m doing because I know at least that it’s good and I can be proud of that . . . I hope the scale gets bigger. And I think there’s so many things we can do not only nationwide, but worldwide.
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