A decade ago, direct response tv as we know it didn't exist in this
country. Above the line agencies would produce eye-poppingly beautiful
thirty second ads, with tiny telephone numbers tacked on the end just
long enough for any interested viewer to start reaching for a pen.
Needless to say, nobody got as far as calling back.
On the other side of the Atlantic, advertisers wanted far more than
thirty second slots to maximise their product's potential. The medium of
television was working so well for direct sales that thirty minute
'advertorials' were commonplace.
The lesson was a simple one, and comfortingly familiar to direct
marketing creatives: take time to sell your product, be it a coffee
maker, a car loan or a charity. Show your viewer what makes this product
different from any other and persuade them of the benefits they will
enjoy by responding.
Although much has changed since the first real direct response ads
appeared on our screens in 1992/3, these basic rules still apply today.
Test them, play with them ... but don't ever forget them!
Effective direct marketing means reaching the right audience at the
right time, and that's usually before 6pm, given how hugely expensive
prime time slots can be. Work out who wants your product - a children's
educational cd-rom, a home improvement loan, an appeal to Save the Sad
Furry Creature - and talk to those mums or senior citizens when they've
got the time and inclination to listen.
Become your viewer
Your DRTV ad can be as funny/heartbreaking/aggressive as you like, but
it must connect with your target audience. Can you see them? Can you
imagine how it feels to be a harassed housewife with yowling toddlers
hanging off each leg? A retired teacher who spends most of his time in
A traffic warden with a passion for collectibles? The more closely you
can identify with these people, the more likely you are to offer them
what they want. And it'll help you steer clear of the trap of adopting a
tone of voice which your viewers might find alienating.
Arts and Crafts
Television is a medium which evokes emotional response from people, and
your starting point is a great idea to create the emotional impact that
you're looking for. But your ad won't succeed unless you can combine
emotion with logic.
First persuade your viewer that they want what you're selling through an
accumulation of emotional and practical benefits to them, then urge them
to take immediate action.
Unlike above the line advertisements, with DRTV you'll know how your ad
has done in a very short space of time. You can always make alterations
if your response rate isn't satisfactory, but it's far more cost
effective to get that winning formula right first time, so make sure
you've included ...
The tools of your trade
The tools of your trade include captions, which can summarise benefits,
supply additional information to the voiceover or simply urge a call to
action. Don't shy away from a flash or a starburst if it's appropriate
to your product. And whatever you're selling, keep your telephone number
up long enough for the viewer to register and respond to it. For
example, with a ninety second commercial I'd recommend you display your
number a minimum of fifteen seconds.
Ninety seconds may seem a long time to fill, but by the time you've
introduced your product, explained its benefits, urged the viewer to
respond and given them time to do so, you'll have plenty to cram in. I
remember the director of my first ever direct response ad, reading my
earnest, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink offering and crying 'this isn't
a script, it's War and bleeding Peace!'. It was his first brush with
DRTV too, and he never cared to repeat the experience.
One thing I've learned since then is to make spaces in my scripts. Wall
to wall voiceover is distracting, avoid it whenever possible, but when
push comes to shove, sometimes there's so much to say that it will take
all your skill to insert those breathing spaces.
All of the above are important marketing tools, but trying to put a
mailpack on the telly just won't work. Your images must move and excite
the viewer, and they should flow seamlessly from that original 'great
Just because it's DRTV doesn't mean it can't be beautiful, even for
Our research has shown that tv audiences don't automatically expect
their charity ads to look like they were made for tuppence-ha'penny with
a hand held camcorder. In fact the appeals they responded to best all
had great production values in common.
Love it, love it, love it
DRTV is developing all the time - the advent of interactive tv is upon
us, and the internet and emarketing are already changing the way we buy,
sell and give. I'm looking forward to the next decade. Remember, however
fast you go, hold on tight to your custard creams ...
Lisette Teasdale is senior copywriter at WWAV Rapp Collins.