For the last four years, Dorothy Vodicka has been running “Ask the Expert” television ads on WCTV. Since she started the TV ads in 2005, Vodicka has noticed increases in appraisals, custom designs and jewelry repairs, which also happen to be the top-three topics people in her Tallahassee, FL, market ask about most often.
Vodicka is quick to admit that the idea of doing the “Ask the Expert” commercial wasn’t hers. But she was familiar with the commercial format that many other merchants in her market have been using for years. From landscapers to lawyers and doctors to dentists, many leading professionals have met with success in being the local expert on a range of everyday topics.
As the co-owner of The Gem Collection, Vodicka’s 32 years of retailing made her the resident expert on jewelry and industry-related topics. WCTV was experiencing their own success by selling commercial time with “Ask the Expert” merchants, but were lacking in some key consumer interest areas, namely jewelry.
That’s when the sales and marketing people at the TV station approached Vodicka. Her lengthy history as a jeweler and being an AGS member conveyed stability, longevity and in-depth knowledge. The ad contract was signed and Vodicka shot her first commercial in 2005.
In the four years Vodicka has been running these TV ads, she’s only shot two commercials. The first was just Vodicka and her business partner and husband Don in the commercial. After taking a year’s break from the campaign in 2008, Vodicka and her husband shot a new commercial in early 2009, showing off the couple’s new store and their staff of 10 people.
Vodicka advertises several times during the week, but concentrates the bulk of her time slots during the “Early Show,” a local morning news show in the Tallahassee market, similar in content to the “Today Show.”
Viewers are asked to submit questions to the WCTV website. Emails are later forwarded to Vodicka. She then answers the questions person to person by email and follows up with phone calls and even store visits depending on the person’s interest level.
The couple started formally tracking sales linked to the “Ask the Expert” ads this year. In looking back at the three active years of the campaign, Vodicka has anecdotal data that indicates 2007 and sales to date in 2009, “have been our strongest years,” she says.
Actual tracking data for 2009 shows increases in the top-three areas of interest from Tallahassee WCTV viewers, with appraisals up 20%, repair work up 10% and customer design work is up 5%. Vodicka points out these are services that require more in-depth explanations. “These questions are harder to define,” says Vodicka. “How to take a one-carat ruby from your grandmother’s necklace and make it into a ring requires more time to explain.”
The TV ads are also directing more traffic to The Gem Collection’s website. “We’ve determined that this TV commercial is the number-one driver of traffic to our website,” says Vodicka. Increased visits and views indicate people are most interested in the store’s many designers and brand names, from Alex Sepkus jewelry to Seiko watches.
The increased traffic, however, has forced Vodicka to rethink her website in ways that will increase attention on the store’s designers and name brands as well as the store’s own custom designs. “We’re currently updating our website to include image galleries of our own [custom] work,” says Vodicka. “And, we’re working with our vendors to provide artwork for image galleries.”
Regarding the questions, since the campaign’s inception four years ago, Vodicka has found that people seem to be very thoughtful in their queries. “So far we’ve noticed that people who take the time to write in a question eventually pull the trigger on a jewelry purchase,” says Vodicka.
In the last four years Vodicka has only been stumped once, but prides herself on having the industry knowledge to defer that customer to an industry website that could provide a more detailed response.
Taking a cathartic look at her “Ask the Expert” campaign, Vodicka is considering shooting different commercials. Instead of asking for questions to be sent in, she’ll take a commonly asked question and answer it in the commercial, concluding with a call to action for sending in more questions. “It would add a fun, interactive dynamic to the campaign,” says Vodicka.
For now, Vodicka is enjoying increased traffic in her store and on her website. She’s also getting some notoriety around town when people recognize her as the “Ask the Expert” jewelry lady.
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