DRTV has moved into the mainstream of TV selling and can quantify an
ad’s impact, Robert Dwek says
Unilever, the UK’s top advertiser, which tested DRTV on its Pond’s and
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter brands, joins a growing list of packaged
goods companies eager to experiment with this technique.
Britvic, Spillers, Martini, McVities and Nestle are just some of the
converts. But the fmcg brigade - which has belatedly realised how
effective the telephone can be in circumventing those nasty retailers
and getting straight to the consumer - still has some way to go before
its DRTV spend matches that of its financial services or motor
DRTV has been transformed over the past decade from a highly
marginalised activity - usually a hard sell undertaken late at night -
into a mainstream one. This trend is likely to accelerate with the
launch of Channel 5.
Current DRTV research shows that, far from undermining a brand-building
commercial, a response mechanism is rapidly becoming de rigueur.
‘Telephone numbers on ads are now considered a fact of life,’ Melanie
Howard, formerly at the Henley Centre and now a consultant to the Direct
Marketing Association, says.
She suggests that DRTV has made a successful transition from hard sell
to soft sell. ‘Advertisers are starting to use DRTV even though they
might not be that bothered about generating response. A telephone number
makes a statement about your company: it shows you are making yourself
accessible, which in itself is starting to carry considerable image
Perhaps because of this new-found purpose, DRTV remains a hard technique
to quantify. But it can certainly be an effective way of gauging the
impact of a commercial, allowing an advertiser to by-pass the
traditional audience research methods. It can, for example, give you a
much better idea of whether your intended target market was watching the
box at the time schedulers told you they would be watching.
DRTV is also increasingly being used to highlight below-the-line
marketing activity, such as sampling. There is evidence to show that a
DRTV ad can significantly increase the effectiveness of a door-drop or
insert campaign. Reader’s Digest has long recognised - and exploited -
An alternative for advertisers who are nervous about slapping a
telephone number on to their commercial is to run a short DRTV ad
alongside a longer, more traditional brand-building ad. This top-and-
tail approach has been used recently by Spillers to launch its new
Purrfect brand. And, of course, DRTV is playing an increasingly
important role in compiling customer databases.
Which is better at creating DRTV ads - an ad agency or a direct
marketing specialist? The general view today is that the question is no
longer applicable, since DRTV is not what it was and agencies themselves
have changed so much. ‘If the integrated agency groups work the way they
should, the question should be irrelevant,’ says one DRTV specialist.
Facts and figures
The percentage of TV ads carrying a response mechanism rose dramatically
between 1986 and 1994, according to the BT/Channel 4 research in 1995,
from 1.8 per cent to 22.6 per cent.
The most efficient day for DRTV is Tuesday, the most effcient period is
12-2pm and the optimum ad lengths are ten or 90 seconds.
Thirty-seven per cent of all telephone calls generated by DRTV go
unanswered, according to the Direct Marketing Association. But this
gloomy figure is being countered by a rising investment in Interactive
Voice Response, an automated call-handling system.
The 0800 number is 33 per cent more efficient than the 0345 number, and
voiceovers make ads three times as effective.
The biggest users of DRTV between 1986 and 1994 were financial companies
and car advertisers.