Direct Response TV Advertising

Definition: A marketing effort that encourages the target audience to respond directly to the advertiser: through the telephone, a business reply card, a coupon and so on

Although there are many different types of media you can use when it comes to direct response advertising, the most well-known venue is television--commercials with a toll-free number that you can call immediately to buy the product. These can be normal 60-second commercials or their longer counterparts, half-hour-long infomercials.

Direct response television works well for inventors and other entrepreneurs who can't get retail shelf space or whose unknown products would languish on the shelves. But direct response TV advertising isn't right for everyone. Before you jump in, make sure you can answer yes to these three vital questions about your product:

1. Can its benefits be demonstrated? Think about the kinds of products you see in direct response spots--such as a hair-braiding tool, a unique children's paint kit or a "revolutionary" car finish. They lend themselves to effective visual presentation.

2. Does it have mass appeal? When you select a time slot and channel--and therefore audience demographic--there should be a high probability that the majority of the audience can use your product. Whether you're buying time on cable systems or individual stations, you can save money by purchasing "broad rotators," which means your spots may run anytime during entire dayparts, not just within specific, higher-rated shows.

3. Is it unique or novel? It's best if your product is novel enough that there's little competition for it on the retail level. In fact, once a product is widely available in retail stores, direct response TV spots stop working. Most entrepreneurs advertise on television to create impressions in the marketplace that pave the way for future retail sales.

For successful direct response spots, follow these important guidelines:

  • Create 60-second spots. While 30-second spots are the norm for most TV advertising, their primary function is lead generation. The 60-second spot is the preferred length for selling products.
  • Have a visible call to action. It's advisable to have your toll-free number, and possibly your website, onscreen for a minimum of 40 seconds. Some advertisers display this information throughout their spots.
  • Use the magic number, $19.95. This is the most successful price point for direct response TV ads. With only 60 seconds, it can very difficult to create value in the audience's mind above an impulse--$19.95 to $29.95--price point. For higher-priced products, 30-minute infomercials or placement on TV shopping networks work best.
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