Ten DRTV Tips to Take Your Campaigns to the Next Level


The objective of every direct response television campaign is simple.
Sell something. And sell it now. So, DRTV is about sales and not about brand amplification.

Although it can often be an ancillary benefit, what is being sold and how to buy it, is far more critical than who is selling it. Initially it’s all about eliciting an emotional reaction from the viewer.

Then, and most importantly, it’s an action taken that turns the viewer into a customer.
This action taken is most often in the form of a phone call to a toll free 800 number.

More recently we’ve seen the reappearance of a QR scan code appearing on screen in concert with an 800 number. If the objective to DRTV is to sell, then let’s make the selling process as easy as possible.

Since 2002 we’ve orchestrated many successful DRTV campaigns – both 60 and 30 second spots and long-form/half-hour infomercials.

To get a viewer to become a consumer is that all-important action, there are some practical considerations that should be applied.

I could call them ‘rules”, and to a certain extent that might be correct. But, at the same time/ we’ve all heard the expression rules are meant to be broken.
And yes, NMC has broken these rules occasionally. Usually, this is predicated on what product or service we’re selling and to whom we are targeting.

But let’s keep it simple and discuss the components that most often are used in successful DRTV commercials.

And coincidently “keep it simple” would be the first tenet.

If you confuse the viewer you’ve just lost the sale. Basic human psychology. We tend to dismiss that which we do not understand.

If you try to sell too many things with 60 or 30 seconds, you’ll lose the sale. This is not a grocery store circular.

You need to create a clear awareness of the benefits and features. And a product may have many benefits, many features.

But which are the 2 or 3 that will most likely resonate with your target demographic?

And what specially makes this product or service better? This is often referred to as a Unique Selling Proposition.

AIDA. Attention. Interest. Desire. Action.

A DRTV commercial should follow this time-tested formula.

Before anything else can happen you’ve got to get someone’s attention.

Of course, how you get that attention will usually be based on your target demographic. What resonates with seniors is probably not going to resonate with 20-year-olds

But that’s usually easy. The harder part is how to get them to actually watch?

The opening, often called “the hook” comes within the first 5 to 10 seconds of the commercial.

You want the viewer to say “hey, what’s this?”.

So, you got their attention.

Now what? You need to arouse their interest.

What’s different about this product?

How will this make life easier, better, safer?

What is the unique selling proposition or USP?

It very basically addresses “what’s in it for me?” Not too many details – those are coming next.

Ok, you’ve gotten their attention – generated interest.

Now you want them to desire it. Not just desire it, though. They need to feel as though they have to have it!

Here is where you can elaborate on the benefits that got their interest. Provide more details that relate to the 2 or 3 key benefits.

You’re not introducing additional benefits – just expanding on the ones you’ve decided are most appealing

Ok, ya got their attention, and their interest – and now they want it. They desire it.

So, make them take an action. This is called “the call to action” Call now. Scan the code. Tell them exactly what they need to do.

The All-important Lower 3rd

Ok, so you need them to call. But who are they calling? And how?
This is where the lower 3rd comes in. The lower 3rd will feature the toll-free phone number and may include the name of the advertiser and usually their logo.
In some cases, there may not be an actual advertiser being promoted. These are called generic or white labeled commercials.
In these cases, the lower 3rd will have the type of service or product being advertised. For example, “Final Expense Life Insurance” or “Reverse Mortgages”.
Normally this lower 3rd will appear at around 10 seconds into a commercial.
Why would it not appear immediately but rather at about 10 seconds? The first 10 seconds introduces what’s being sold – it gets their attention.
We cannot expect someone to call before they know why they should call. First make it clear why this product or service is great for them. And then always make sure you tell them how to get it.

If they can’t read it, they won’t buy it.

While the messaging must be simple to understand, the corresponding text should be simple to read. Stay away from odd fonts. Such as this one right here.
Stay away from using italics. An exception might be when demonstrating a quote from a testimonial. In this case you may wish the line to appear as “it’s the easiest…” And that’s done to differentiate from the rest of the offer’s text.
If a viewer can’t read it, it has no positive value and likely causes a negative response. Again, a confused viewer is not going to be a buyer.

Use colors sparingly. Unless your promoting paint or crayons.

Ok, so we’ve established the copy needs to be simple to understand.
We’ve established that fonts should be simple to read.
But the 3rd consideration is the colors.
Here again, you’ll need to consider the psychology of colors as they relate to your product/service as well as demo.
There is some correlation between colors and response. Colors can have an impact on how we feel. But we’ll save the discussion on how color effects human reaction for another blog.
For now, only have 2 maybe 3 different colors in the commercial.
Of course, a client’s logo may have more than 3 and you’ll want to have that featured prominently.
And often, you’ll want to use those 2 (or 3) logos colors as your commercial’s color palette.

Disclaim and Disclose and Source. (Lawyers and lawsuits are expensive)

Okay having these in place won’t generate more calls. But they could save you from making “your one phone call” from a payphone in a jail.

The CFPB and FCC don’t like false advertising, and rightly so.
A disclaimer is a statement that limits responsibility. For example, “not available in all states”.

A disclosure is a statement that gives the prospect relevant information that allows them to make a more informed decision. For example, “Independent contractors may be used in your area”.
Bottom line is transparency. Give the customer the whole story so they can make an educated decision.

These should always be provided by the client. Unless it’s a generic campaign.
In addition, there are font size requirements, so they’ll be readable on screen – clear and conspicuous. So, they’ll need to appear on screen for more than a couple of seconds.

Put yourself in the consumer’s place. Wouldn’t you like to know everything before you buy?
A source is as important as disclaimers and disclosures. If you make a claim – prove it.
Before you say “most falls happen in the bathroom” – do some research.
And if it’s factual, cite it on screen. And frankly having a great source will increase credibility. And potentially increase viewer action.

And while disclaimers and disclosures will not increase call volume they really won’t hurt it either.

Sex. Now that I’ve got your attention…

Getting attention. Remember that’s the first thing you do to get the viewers to watch your commercial.
And there are certain words that elicit a reaction to grab attention.
And there are words that generate interest and desire and the all-important action.
Free is one of those words. New is another. No risk, money-back-guarantee are a few more.
But it’s not always possible to use those exact words, of course.
And if you can’t, find other words or phrases that make viewers interested in the product/service.
Text is often on screen throughout the commercial in the lower 3rd.
A voice-over is even more impactful. Again, to whom are you advertising? Different key words will resonate better with certain age groups than others. But who doesn’t like “free” or “new”?

So, a guy walks into a bar.

How many times have you heard a joke and didn’t laugh? We all have a different sense of humor.

What’s hysterical to one person may not be the least bit funny to another. And that’s why using humor in an ad can be risky.

Certainly, there are dozens of commercials that are funny, memorable, and effective.

But generally, it took a team of creative people to come up with them. And in addition, these are used more for brand amplification than direct response.

It’s risk versus reward. Advertising is not cheap. Unless you’re 100 percent sure that what you think is funny will be universal, it’s probably best not to try.

Better to spend your ad dollars creating an interesting commercial that motivates an action without turning anyone off.

The more the merrier.

Credited to Jehan Palsgrav, the actual phrase in 1530 was “The mo the merrier” In case you’re ever on Jeopardy, in which case answer in the form of a question.

You’re advertising benefits. Not benefit. Plural, not singular.
At various times throughout the commercial you’ll want them to appear together.
Look at all we have to offer. Not, let’s see one thing we offer. Hold on. Here’s another. Hold on again…
Now, when we say present benefits at once we’re talking 3 or 4 primary benefits.
What we don’t want to do is put up a laundry list with so many items that the viewer in overwhelmed. It’s about balance.

Wow, those were really cool special effects. What were they talking about?

Remember, keep it simple? That goes with the use of effects as well.

Yes, animated graphics certainly can be used- sparingly.

And TV is a visual medium. So, some text movement should be done instead of a static screen.

Highlighting key words with a glow effect is perfect.

But let’s be real, you’re not producing the next film in the Marvel Universe.

And while production people want to show off (I get it), leave the “wow” for the movies.
You’ve got 60 or 30 seconds to get their attention, pique their interest, make them desire it and have them take an action.
Those seconds are precious. Don’t waste them with crazy effects that will do absolutely nothing to encourage a response.

About the author:
Considered one of advertising’s most respected and imaginative broadcast media buyers and campaign managers, Matthew Goldreich has a 20+ year track record of direct response marketing success.
An expert in television and radio infomercial and short-form marketing, Matt has created and produced winning campaigns for the mortgage, auto, insurance, hair restoration, and a multitude of other industries.
Founder of his own successful full-service, direct-response television advertising agency and production company, Matt’s broadcast employment includes NBC and Pax (ION) Television. He has written, produced, and directed dozens of infomercials as well as hundreds of successful short-form, direct-response ads.