Why direct response TV marketing is still effective

Any advertisement that engages consumers and asks them to respond directly to a brand in the form of a click, call or purchase, including but not limited to mailers, billboards, social and display advertisements, emails, texts or calls is known as responsive or accountable advertising. When TV is the medium, it is known as Direct Response TV Advertising, or DRTV.

With DRTV ads, brands aim to educate their consumers on the features and benefits of their product, and then have that consumer take one of the aforementioned actions. As a little background -- DRTV was born out of infomercial-era ads where products often became household names overnight (literally and figuratively). Famed examples include the George Foreman Grill, ShamWow or the cultural phenomenon, the Snuggie; all these products became million-dollar brands after utilizing this long-form advertising.

Over the last 20 years, the industry has seen a variety of video lengths utilized on TV and the internet, including 30 minutes, 120 seconds, 60 seconds, 30 seconds and 15 seconds. Now six-second pre-rolls are a standard. As society’s attention span get shorter, the advertisements are getting shorter as well, and messaging is more succinct. Industry insiders often claim that TV as an advertising medium is a dying art form, but with a projected nearly $80B to be spent in 2019 and still 100 million  individuals across the US that don’t have broadband internet, TV remains the most potent mass medium of our time. 

Turn on the TV, and you will catch plenty of DRTV ads from emerging brands such as Away, Peloton, Hims and UNTUCKit. The reason these companies choose to utilize DRTV is because it is particularly effective for launching and building brands that are looking beyond digital and social channels. With that said, it’s important to note that it’s not just startups using this medium. Well-known brands such as P&G, AT&T, GEICO and L’Oreal all utilize some form of direct response creative or media in their TV advertising. Dollar Shave Club, Chewy, Jet.com, Nest Labs and zulily: each of these direct to consumer brands went from startup to multi-billion-dollar buyout before their 10th birthdays. That’s not all they’ve had in common -- they’ve also used mass-reach TV to fuel their explosive growth. To clarify, DRTV isn’t the only marketing mechanisms these brands utilized, but it was a key contributor to their meteoric rise.

The beauty of DRTV, and the appeal for brands, is that it is more affordable to purchase, easier to test into and optimize and more measurable when compared to brand advertising. It is more efficient when it comes to total audience measurement, there are DRTV avails on all major cable and broadcast networks and the ads motivate customers to engage on one channel as well as across multiple channels. Typically, DRTV creative costs are significantly lower than brand advertising. All these benefits add up to faster measurement of campaign ROI.

DRTV is measurable, can be customized, targeted and segmented across all channels and makes good use of data. It also integrates with other media channels, including digital, offline, mail, email, radio, print, etc. Further, its reach and frequency can be maximized across all potential consumer touchpoints.

DRTV has a multitude of advantages, and for more and more companies, it is increasingly becoming the next tactic for startups after they have maximized their efforts on social media and other digital outlets. With creative messaging, frequency and the right channels, DRTV campaigns have the potential to reach and engage potential and existing customers in a relevant, customized manner. DRTV has been used by brands since the 1980s, but we’ve come a long way from the late-night infomercials that hawked wares while most people slept. Today, infomercials as long-form DRTV ads, and now the shorter DRTV spot ads, can be viewed at all hours. They still air because companies see a direct correlation of investment in media spend correlating with company revenue and sales growth. A brand’s DRTV marketing, if done right, pays for itself and generates a positive ROI on the investment. Now, more and more we’re seeing startups and well-known brands employ DRTV -- and they too are reaping the benefits.  

Bill Cogar is the Director of Marketing at Hawthorne, focusing on new client acquisition and marketing strategy. His clients span a wide range of industries, from consumer technology and CPG to consumer services and e-learning. Prior to joining Hawthorne, Bill worked for the full-service digital agency, Uptown Treehouse, where he was responsible for business development and strategy. His new business acquisitions include UNIQLO, Vans, Holland America Line, SAP Concur, Lenovo and PAX Labs. He attended the University of Virginia where he majored in history with a concentration in globalism and the development of the modern world.

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