What is Direct Response Advertising?

Malcolm Tatum

Direct response advertising is an advertising and marketing approach that utilizes different strategies to prompt consumers to take some sort of immediate action. The idea is to prompt anyone who is viewing the advertising to respond in a specific manner. Typically, the focus is on urging the consumer to make contact with the supplier as a means of improving the chances of establishing a working business relationship.

Direct mail can be one kind of direct response advertising.
Direct mail can be one kind of direct response advertising.

An example of direct response advertising would be the use of postcards as a promotional effort. The postcards may announce the sale of a specific item for a limited amount of time. As part of the layout of the card design, the supplier will provide contact information, usually a telephone number or a web site address, and urge the reader to call or visit the web site for more details or to place an order. This approach not only makes consumers aware of the sale, but also provides them with specific instructions in how to pursue the purchase in the most expedient manner.

Flyers and door hangers serve the same type of direct response advertising function. The text and graphics on the promotional material include information that can be used to prompt interested parties to make contact with the supplier. Once that contact is made, the potential for generating a sale greatly increases.

Even advertisements of special deals or discount coupons that are inserted into newspapers fit the description of direct response advertising. With the advertisements, consumers can call or visit the supplier and place an order. The discount coupons can be clipped and taken to a supermarket or other retail setting and used to purchase goods for less than the current retail price. In both approaches, consumers respond to the advertising by doing exactly what the advertiser hopes they will do.

Find out how you can save up to $257/month with these easy tools.

Online direct response advertising is simply a variation of the more traditional methods used in offline situations. Here, the supplier makes it easy for consumers to visit a web site, find what they want, and quickly gain access to a means of making a purchase. Even online banner ads or classified ads that are embedded with links that take the consumer to an order page provide the direct effect of making it easy to go ahead with the purchase. When used in conjunction with other forms of promotion and public relations, direct response advertising can be very effective, while adding little cost to the overall promotional effort.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


Many people have mixed feelings about flyers. I have several friends who become angry when these are stuck underneath their wiper blades in a parking lot. They simply crumple them up and throw them away.

On the other hand, I see every flyer as a chance to find a bargain. I always read them before deciding to toss them, because I need to save money in every way possible.

I get the urge to shop when I haven't in awhile, and flyers point me toward the best places to save money while satisfying the urge. I've learned to exercise more self-control and wait until I learn of a sale before springing into action.


@Oceana – That is exactly why I am afraid to get a store credit card! I know I would be too tempted to visit every sale.

So, I settle for clipping coupons out of the newspaper. I often am able to find good coupons in there for my favorite clothing stores. Sometimes, I can get as much as 50% off by doing this.

I think it is very smart of businesses to include these coupons in newspapers in areas with featured stores nearby. I have friends who only go shopping when they can get a good discount, and I think that they would probably go more often if they were given coupons on a regular basis.


Sometimes, companies will narrow the target market of their direct response advertising campaign. Many retail stores use direct mail marketing, sending it only to current customers who already hold a store credit card.

I have credit cards with two clothing stores nearby, and they both send me special coupons that only go to account holders. These coupons state that I can save an extra percentage off the cost of clothing when I use my credit card to make the purchase.

This almost always works on me. The coupons are only good for a week or two, so I make it a point to get to the store with my card before the special offer is gone. I think the companies know that people with store credit cards are more likely to spend more money than customers coming in off the street, because they can pay it off a little at a time.


I think that infomercials could fall into the category of direct response TV advertising. They surely do urge consumers heavily to contact the business soon for a great deal.

They always include the gimmick of showing what you might expect to pay for the item being advertised and then showing a much lower price as the actual cost. The cost almost always ends in .99, as if $19.99 were so much better than an even $20.00!

They also usually tell you that if you order right then, they will throw in an extra item for free. This always makes me wonder about the actual value of the items they are marketing.

Sometimes, it can be tempting to order something from an infomercial, but I usually resist the urge. They do a good job of making their items appealing, though.

Post your comments
Forgot password?