What It Is: TV commercials of various lengths (15 seconds to 30 minutes) designed to create interest and demand in a product and turn that interest into an immediate, impulsive sale
Appropriate For: Businesses with a product that would benefit from demonstration and that have a big budget
Typical Cost: $40,000 to $600,000 depending on the length, the format (film or standard or high-definition video), your location and whether you get celebrity talent, among other things
How It Works: Direct response TV ads come in three formats: short-form ads that run 15, 30, 60, or 120 seconds in length, long-form ads, or infomercials that run 27:30 to 28:30 minutes in length, and live shopping opportunities on such channels as HSN and QVC. These commercials all use repetitive reinforcement to create demand by convincing consumers they want the products being shown or demonstrated and covert that demand into sales.
Short-form ads can fit into slots that aren't always available to the long-form ads and are generally aired ROS (run of schedule or run of station), which means they're not assigned specific slots at the time of purchase. Rather, they "float" throughout the day and/or night. Long-form ads run overnight in specific time slots, generally between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., and during the weekends where the program guide reads "Paid Programming" (see "Infomercial Ads" for more information). There are also some independent stations that offer long-form ads during daytime hours.
The long form of direct response TV ads gives marketers the benefit of time to demonstrate and explain their product or service. This is especially important for a new product coming to market or one that needs some explanation. Infomercials can help overcome anticipated consumer objections and build confidence in a product or service. Combining long and short-form direct TV ads can provide you with a favorable mix of placements--the shorter ads reinforce the content of the longer infomercials and serve to increase a consumer's recall.
Unlike general TV advertising, direct response TV ads ask the consumer to take action right there and then--to make the call, grab the credit card, make the purchase--so it's easy to tell immediately whether you've succeeded in putting together an ad that works or not. The response is immediate--or not. The effectiveness of direct response ads is measured based on response: whether it's driven by cost per order, cost per lead, cost per call or some other criteria.
You'd be in way over your head if you tried to do something this sophisticated and complicated on your own (think what it would be like if you had to take out your own tonsils and then sew them back in again). And if you have the budget to consider this form of advertising, you have the budget to hire a professional direct response ad company like Hawthorne Direct Inc.to handle this form of advertising for you. Some of the details they carry out that you don't want to fool with include:
- Concept development
- Marketing plans
- Media buying
- Tape duplication
- Telemarketing and fulfillment management
- Home shopping
- International distribution
- Credit card syndication
- Retail distribution
Just the details involved with setting up your own toll-free number should be enough to convince you to stay away from the rest of the process: After selecting a telemarketing company, scripts must be developed to maximize sales and leads--and scripts that aren't working have to be rewritten. Someone needs to train the operators so that when they answer your toll-free phone number, they're educated about you and your product, and they understand your offer (operators are provided with VHS copies of the actual show as part of their training). Operator calls have to be monitored to be sure they're being handled professionally. And then there's the whole process of tracking call volume during each telecast to be sure there are enough operators to handle the load. And that's not even close to being the end of that one part of running a direct response ad.
You'll purchase direct response TV ads on a market-to-market, station-to-station basis and they're always in the process of being booked or canceled, changed or re-negotiated. In the best performing venues, the demand generally exceeds the amount of time available, so it's best to have a company working for you that has developed solid relationships with the station contacts.
You need to understand that there's always risk associated with direct response TV ads. If your infomercial test isn't successful, for example, the show would need to be re-worked and retested until the necessary level of response is reached--and this can be very expensive.
There's a wide variety of content out there today in the world of infomercials, and some of it falls into the "eye roll" category: psychic readers, get-rich-quick schemes, vibrating face masks, weight loss drugs, cure-it-all vitamins--the list is too long to ponder. Just remember, your mother was right: You're judged by the company you keep. So if you choose this method of advertising, you'd better be sure you deliver on each and every promise you make so that you're not added, in the minds of your customers, to the list of questionable infomercial brands out there.
Kathy Kobliski is the founder of Silent Partner Advertisingin Syracuse, New York. She is also the author of Advertising Without an Agency Made Easy.