Extreme Makeovers: Good News for Garage Doors?

© 2004 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Winter 2004
Author: Carla Rautenberg
Pages 52-57

Extreme Makeovers:
Good News for Garage Doors?

By Carla Rautenberg, Special DAS Correspondent

Since The Learning Channel first aired an odd, modest little program called “Trading Spaces” four years ago, the popularity of home makeover TV has skyrocketed. The category now boasts more than 30 shows and counting. Its combination of information, entertainment, and emotion seems difficult for viewers to resist.

“Tears for Sears”

The pinnacle may have been the two-hour episode of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” that aired on Nov. 7. Seen by 20.5 million viewers, the program profiled the Vardons, a family with multiple handicaps and their unique housing needs. The show dominated its time slot, beating perennial powerhouse “60 Minutes” and garnering ABC’s largest audience in the time period in more than four years.

The program “melts hearts by showering presents on calamity-stricken families,” reports Ned Martel of The New York Times. He adds, “It really should be called ‘Tears for Sears’ in honor of its sponsor.”

The Garage Door Score
So, how does the garage door industry fare in reality TV’s softer side? It depends.

In the landscape of home makeover TV, ratings alone don’t elevate garage doors.
“Depending on the show, and depending on the episode, the exposure differs,” says Pat Kennedy, director of marketing for Raynor.

Raynor has provided doors for “a couple of episodes” of Extreme Makeover, but found the promotional payback to be minimal. The company’s name was buried in fast-moving credits shown at the end of each segment.

The Appeal of “Curb Appeal”
Kennedy is markedly more enthusiastic about Raynor’s experience with “Curb Appeal,” a makeover show on the Home & Garden Television (HGTV) network. One particular episode focused specifically on the selection and purchase of a garage door.

Aired Sept. 13, 2004, the program featured a woman who wanted to give her fiancé a home makeover as a wedding gift. The customer was shown entering the showroom of Jones Garage Door in Petaluma, Calif. Jim Jones greeted her and used Raynor’s VISTA visualization software to demonstrate how her house will look with various Raynor garage door models.

“The experience with the show further strengthened my feelings regarding the VISTA tool,” says Jones. “When given the opportunity, customers like the ability to see their own home with a variety of door and façade configurations.”

After the customer selected two Centura garage doors donated by Raynor, the “Curb Appeal” segment showed Jones Garage Door installing the door. Raynor Territory Manager Charlie Bogle, who was on-site when the installation was filmed, says the HGTV production team “really worked with us. They were very professional.”

Help From Playmates
Clopay Building Products has provided garage doors for various episodes of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” HGTV’s “Curb Appeal,” the syndicated program “Hometime,” and others. But the company’s biggest commitment has been to Fox’s “Renovate My Family” (RMF).

Clopay is the exclusive garage door sponsor for the series, specifically promoting its new Coachman Collection of steel carriage-house doors. The Chamberlain Group signed on to provide its LiftMaster EverCharge battery backup system.

What makes RMF stand out? Well, the show features 26-year-old ex-Playboy Playmate triplets as the main carpenters.

Key: Making an Emotional Connection
But the show addresses more than just appearances. And the reason for its success may its ability to make an emotional connection with its mass audience.

In addition to a complete home renovation, the families selected to participate receive physical makeovers, vacations, and even therapy. The program is hosted by Jay McGraw, the son of talk show and pop psychology guru Dr. Phil McGraw. RMF strives to connect with the viewer’s emotional life by “healing” a deserving family.

“Who knew America would respond to nice shows about fixing up nice people’s houses?” asks reporter Gretchen McKay, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

A New Phenomenon
Yes, America seems to be responding … and much more in 2004 than in 2002. About two years ago, Whirlpool’s Gladiator GarageWorks participated in an episode of the venerable PBS series “This Old House.” When the program was first aired, Gladiator received no noticeable uptick in customer inquiries.

The episode was later sold to HGTV, which recently re-broadcast the same show. “Suddenly there was a massive increase in the number of people who came to our Web site,” says Chris Hubbuch, manager of shared drivers and integrated marketing for Gladiator.

“We do see an increase in Web site traffic and telephone calls when these shows run. They are effective.”

Tracking Responses
More than five million U.S. households watched the premiere episode of RMF in September 2004, says Mischel Schonberg, Clopay public relations manager. The show won its time slot in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic. While those numbers may pale next to the 20 million viewers of the Nov. 7 “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” RMF offers some specific and trackable benefits to Clopay.

“Every show we participate in provides product info on their Web site and a link back to the Clopay Web site,” says Schonberg. “Often, in the case of “Curb Appeal” and RMF, they will list the name and contact information of the local dealer, which is a nice plug.”

In addition to tracking visits to clopaydoor.com, Clopay has collected what it calls “anecdotal evidence” of increased interest in its products.

Schonberg explains, “People call the customer service line because they’ve seen a door on RMF and want it for their home.” She adds that Clopay has “elements of a program” in place to maximize dealer results from the home makeover show exposure, and the program is being expanded.

Sending a Message
Joyce Benson at Total Access in Newhall, Calif., who has installed Clopay doors for three episodes of RMF, says, “Our involvement is helping to deliver an important message about the category—the garage door doesn’t have to be an afterthought.”

“In 30 minutes or less, viewers see the difference a new garage door can make on a home’s curb appeal,” notes Pat Lohse, Clopay’s director of residential marketing. “The end result has real impact because the audience has shared in each step of the renovation process. They are just as thrilled with the final results as the homeowner.”

The Cost of Exposure
Contractual arrangements with the manufacturers of featured products differ from show to show. Generally, however, the amount of product exposure is calculated according to an “advertising equivalent.” The network determines advertising rates for the show, and manufacturers must provide products totaling that value.

“So, say it was $20,000,” says Schonberg. “You have to provide $20,000 worth of product per episode to get a certain level of exposure on that episode.”

Exposure may consist of a verbal mention of the manufacturer’s name by the host, or showing a logo. Every show is different, and Schonberg notes that Clopay gained extra product exposure on RMF because the company made a long term commitment to the series.

Garage Envy!
In addition to its season contract with RMF and participation in other home makeover shows, Clopay has completed a pilot episode for a new A&E series.

Its title? “Garage Envy.”

Each segment profiles the transformation of an existing garage into the homeowner’s “dream space.” For the pilot, an “ESPN-Zone” sports haven was created, featuring big screen TVs, leather couches, games, and of course, an insulated Clopay garage door.

At another end of the style spectrum, Clopay is participating in a new PBS show scheduled to debut in March 2005. On “The American HomeShop,” Scott Phillips will build a custom home from the ground up. The popular host of PBS’ long-running series “The American Woodshop” chose Clopay Reserve Collection wood doors for the carriage-house style garage/workshop area of the new home.

An Opening for Openers
Raynor’s Pat Kennedy thinks that garage door openers benefit indirectly when reality TV focuses on garage doors. “When people replace their garage doors,” he says, “I would say that 65 to 70 percent of the time they replace the openers, so these shows have to be helping them out.”

He notes, however, that the shows focus more on how the house looks than on how things actually function. Garage door openers are rarely mentioned.

The Bottom Line?
“These shows are a sales tool,” states Pat Lohse of Clopay. But she adds, “We don’t say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that comes our way. We have a set of criteria the show has to meet in order for us to participate. The show’s audience has to fit our customer profile, and there must be an opportunity to drive business to our dealers.”

Raynor’s management finds it difficult to quantify the sales impact. Pat Kennedy says, however, that the recent “Curb Appeal” segment resulted in a number of visits to the Raynor Web site.

“Our distributors have commented that, from that show, they’ve had people coming in and asking about Raynor doors,” he says.

A New Set of Problems
Kennedy believes that the phenomenal success of the home makeover shows presents a new set of problems. “The popularity of these shows has really fragmented them at the same time,” he explains.

With so many shows flooding the market, Kennedy says it’s harder to “hang your hat” on one of them. “As a manufacturer, it’s really hard to start seeing return on your investment and to decide which show you want to participate in.”

That fragmentation could signal the end of the category’s spectacular rise. Jumptheshark.com, a Web site that tracks the decline and fall of popular television programs, says a spin-off is one of the first signs that a show is on the way out.

In fact, “Trading Spaces” already has spun off two variations: “Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls” and “Trading Spaces: Family.” And of course, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” is itself a spin-off.

Getting a Boost
Although some leveling off may be inevitable, the home makeover category seems well entrenched for now. Schonberg points out, “Before, homeowners relied on product literature or magazines for renovation ideas. Now, they are turning on the TV to get inspired.”

But it’s more than that. The emotional component of these shows gets people excited about fixing up their homes. And when people are excited, they buy.

All home building products must be benefiting from this mass exposure to remodeling. Garage doors, essential as they are to the “Curb Appeal” of any home, must also be getting a boost.