What Is Direct Response Copy?

Michael Pollick

There are a number of different persuasive techniques used in advertising copywriting, but one of the most aggressive techniques is called direct response copy. This technique is designed to elicit an immediate reaction from the recipient, often leading to an immediate action such as a cash donation, a phone call or a visit to a specified website. The important thing is to generate a sense of exigency in a potential customer or client. Once the commercial is over or the advertisement has been read, the next logical step is to take some kind of action.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

Professional writers who specialize in this technique have a good understanding of human psychology. A television commercial or radio spot using direct response copy almost always begins with an attention-getter. A siren may sound in the background, for example, or the voice-over volume will be noticeably higher than the regular program. Advertisers only have a few seconds in which to generate interest, so it is important to grab the audience's attention from the very beginning. Copywriters often use vivid language and a commanding "second person you" voice-over to pitch the product or service directly to the listener.

Direct response copy differs significantly from the standard informational copy many businesses use for advertising. A standard advertisement for a furniture company might read "Welcome to Smith Brothers Furniture. We've been serving Anytown, USA for over 50 years, and we invite you to come check out our sofas, beds and dressers." While this type of copy might help introduce the furniture store to newcomers, many listeners may tune it out.

A script using direct response copy for the same company would sound like this: "Smith Brothers furniture is going out of business next month and WE NEED YOUR HELP! Call the number on your screen to find out more about our sacrifice prices! The doors are closing forever, so call that number today!"

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The key to effective direct response copy is an easily remembered command to take a reasonable action. Charitable organizations often use this technique to urge immediate donations, for instance. Evocative photographs of suffering children may appeal to the potential donor's emotions, while the narrator reminds him or her of the immediacy of the need. The contact information is generally repeated several times, which is a standard practice. An effective direct response ad can generate a significant amount of leads for the advertiser, which puts professional copywriters capable of producing quality scripts in high demand.

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Discussion Comments


To describe it in a nutshell, direct response copywriting follows a formula: state problem, aggravate the problem, offer a solution, show proof and have a strong call to action. This works in every media.

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