What Is Direct Response TV Advertising?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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Direct response TV advertising refers to television ads that ask viewers to respond immediately to product offers. Whereas most TV advertising has the goal of creating brand awareness in their target audience, direct response television, which is usually in the form of 60-second ads or 30-minute infomercials, instead is planned for immediate results. TV viewers are given highly persuasive, demonstrative content that urges them to "act now" by calling a toll-free phone number, writing to a specified postal address or going to a given website.

This type of direct response asked of the target audience is called a "call to action." In direct response TV advertising, this is typically done throughout the ad or the documentary style of informative content called an infomercial by showing the contact phone number or web address on the screen. A voiced announcement also typically accompanies this direct call to action to place an order for the product being advertised.

Products promoted in television direct response ads vary widely. Most, however, tend to be for household products that are both unique and problem solving. The typical strategy of much direct response TV advertising is to show actors struggling with common, yet not as effective, solutions to household needs, such as cleaning, food preparation or storage concerns, before demonstrating the featured product's effectiveness.


These product demonstrations, given along with verbal communication about the unique benefits and the strong call to action to order the item, are usually quite successful in getting customer orders. For example, a vacuum designed to move efficiently in even the smallest corner to get the house clean may be shown by a person operating it during direct response TV advertising. All of the vacuum's benefits, such as being able to pick up different kinds of debris while getting in small spaces, are likely to be mentioned by the person vacuuming as well as at least one other actor. One of the actors may voice the concerns or questions that target audience viewers are likely to have, such as if the machine can keep up such great performance consistently or how easy is it to change the bag.

The next shot in the commercial may then show an actor emptying the vacuum bag simply and efficiently with the person who asked the question acting quite impressed. That person may then pose a new question or challenge, such as inquiring about whether the product can handle drapery and stair cleaning. After these concerns are again successfully demonstrated and all of the vacuum's features have been shown to be beneficial, unique and problem solving, an incentive to order immediately may be added to the previous calls to action. This incentive is usually given at the end of the direct response TV advertising segment and it is usually a compelling offer such as receiving free accessories as well as a discount for calling the number on the screen "now!"


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