“The message of the media is the commercial.”
—Alice Embree

Direct Response TV spots in advertising were the forerunners to the Infomercial. Advertisers have been using this short form of DRTV most prominently since the introduction of the toll free 800 telephone services and the advent of the advanced system for “cashiering” - the credit card.  These two factors also answer most questions relating to the tremendous increase of direct marketing over the last three decades. 

The DRTV spot has been used most effectively by those companies offering a product for $39.95 or less or an offer of free information.  The use of the short form direct response TV spot is now used for almost every type of product imaginable – and it can also increase internet traffic and sales exponentially.”

Because its production costs are relatively low, advertisers who ordinarily would not venture into “expensive” television campaigns have found tremendous success.  How can one account for singer Slim Whitman selling millions of records or the amazing success of the Ginsu Knife (incidentally they were made in Arkansas).  Tens of millions of CDs, DVDs and videos have also been sold using the DRTV spot. 

The DRTV spot also offers some advantages that the Infomercial can not provide.  First,
because they are short form advertising (60, 90 & 120 second spots) they can be placed throughout the day, whereas the half-hour Infomercial is restricted to limited hours provided by the media outlets.  This means you can target your primary audience more efficiently.

For example, if you have a financial product, you can air your 60-second spot within a financially oriented program.  If your target market is women or retired persons who might be home during the day, you can buy time on daytime programs, where the 30-minute Infomercial generally is not available.  Because of this ability to target the market, I usually recommend DRTV spots as an integral part of any direct marketing campaign.  The spots will always support and add power to the Infomercial and vice versa.

All direct marketing strategies and their respective advertisements have many common ingredients.  Therefore, let me briefly describe some of the shared elements usually present in a good Direct Response TV commercial.   I will then recommend some marketing strategies to consider for a typical advertising campaign.

What is a direct response TV commercial?  Typically, a direct response TV commercial is a 60, 90 or 120 second commercial that is designed to generate an immediate response from the primary target audience watching television.   It always provides a “call to action “ - a toll free 800 telephone number for viewers to call, or a website where visitors can log-in,  to either order a product service or request additional free information.  The bottom line purpose of the DRTV spot is to sell.  As a selling vehicle, the entire spot should clearly express the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and the other major key selling messages that are discussed in Chapter Fifteen, as well as address the 21 basics of a direct response sales presentation as detailed in Chapter Ten.


The basic anatomy of a DRTV commercial is usually broken down into two segments:

The first segment, approximately two thirds of the commercial, is the message that hooks the viewer, presents the inherent benefits of the product or service, and provides the compelling reasons for ownership.  It must also clearly express both visually and audibly the unique selling proposition and all the basics of selling and their respective key selling messages. 

The second segment, usually the last one third of the commercial, is the tag or billboard.  This segment provides the “call to action” 800 telephone number, and other ordering information, such as an address, price, any bonus product or free offer, and the Money Back Guarantee. 

            So the breakdown of a commercial looks like this: 

For a 60 second spot:

            The first 40 seconds delivers :
                        • the vital hook
                        • problem/solution
                        • USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

            The last 20 seconds delivers:
                        • call to action
                        • billboard information

For a 120 second spot:

            The first 80 seconds delivers:
                        • the vital hook
                        • problem/solution
                        • USP

            The last forty seconds delivers:
                        • ordering info
                        • bonuses/free offers
                        • money back guarantee 

“Make Sure To Sell And Ask For The Order!”

Two common oversights non-direct marketers make are:

1.  The commercial is a soft sell approach.  It doesn’t ask for the order throughout the commercial (sell, sell, sell).

2.   It doesn’t allow enough time at the end of the commercial to give the phone number, website, etc. to ask for the order.

Remember that the phone number and/or website has to be up on the screen long enough for your prospect to get up, get pencil and paper, and then to capture the ordering information. I have seen responses double and triple just from changing a 10-second closing tag to a 20 second tag.  

Please note: You will get better results if your voiceover announcer reads the telephone number and the address or website information.  Many times this is not practical, but tests we have conducted also indicate it will make a difference worthy of using audio and video to reinforce them.  This is especially true if the product you are marketing is for an older, more mature audience.


1.  DRTV Provides Measurable Results

Unlike the typical institutional or corporate-image type advertising, DRTV advertising  delivers a measurable and accountable return on investment.  It is the measurable results that are so vital to a successful direct marketing campaign.  The results provide the marketer with scientific real numbers, feedback that can be used to determine if the DRTV campaign is on track or if it needs adjustment. When the results can be measured, the entire campaign is accountable. 

2.   DRTV Provides Immediate Results

Because DRTV uses an 800 telephone number and/or website to generate the responses, DRTV’s impact or lack of impact is known almost immediately.  Therefore, the results of a given campaign or single DRTV spot can be retrieved as soon as it airs.  This instant access to the direct marketing campaign can significantly reduce your financial risks, as well as fatten your bottom line. 

3.  DRTV Is Flexible

Direct Marketing on television is unique in the field of advertising because of its ability to “Test, Measure, Adjust” - testing the media, the creativity of the selling message and the product offer, measuring the results and allowing you to adjust before testing again.  The flexibility of DRTV allows you to make changes to the commercial and the media buys. It lets you try new copy, a new creative “approach”, a different product offer, bonuses, various price points, and so on.

4.  DRTV Is Cost-Efficient 

Generally, DRTV commercials are produced for about one-third to one-half the cost of an image spot, not to mention expensive celebrity talent fees.  In most cases, you can produce a series of DRTV spots for the same production budget as one image spot, therefore, you can be even more cost efficient in DRTV by testing various product offers, multiple price points, alternative creative copy selling points and media placement.  DRTV is cost efficient because, in addition to generating immediate results, it will eventually create brand-name awareness and support all other forms of advertising and marketing. Very often the media costs less for DRTV, because you can air the commercials on an “as available” or “pre-emptible” basis.  There’s also an opportunity to reduce your financial risk with DRTV if you can make risk transference and revenue sharing (PI) arrangements with media outlets.   This is very cost efficient.  

5.  DRTV Is Direct Sales

Direct marketing means direct sales. You are eliminating the many standard retail marketing steps and marketing strategies.  DRTV is direct to the consumer.  What kind of advertising could be better?

6.  DRTV Is A Powerful Cross-Marketing Device

Direct Response Television, when successful, helps support every other form of advertising or marketing.  A good DRTV campaign, although is designed to achieve immediate and measurable results will go on to create brand-name awareness which enhances all other types of marketing, including retail mass-merchandising, internet sales, etc.   Cross Promotion is most evident when a product has achieved brand name awareness as a result of DRTV and the four simple words, “As Seen On TV” are displayed at a retail store. 

“Call Now 1-800 -  How to Profit from Direct Response Television Advertising”  Copyright 2006  Rodney H. Buchser

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