Everyone has seen them: Short television commercials peddling everything from the world’s sharpest knives and the country’s newest exercise devices to nostalgic music anthologies and all-inclusive family vacations. They’re everywhere. Why? Because they work. Known as direct response ads, these TV commercials are persuasive and—thanks to the 1-800 numbers for which they’re famous—effective.
More than half of all consumers say they’re most likely to learn about new products or brands they’d like to buy from TV commercials, according to the Television Bureau of Advertising. Direct response ads are a way to not only reach those consumers, but to sell to them in real time, as well. Of course, not all merchandise is suited for direct response. Nor are all products made for the small screen. To do well on both fronts, your product must:
1. Be unique and unavailable in retail.
2. Have benefits that can be visually demonstrate on camera.
3. Solve a common consumer problem.
4. Appeal to a broad audience.
5. Lend itself to brand development via line extensions, cross-sells, etc.
Evaluate your product for successYou’ve got a winning product. But will television viewers buy it? Get objective feedback on your inventory and its television potential before—not after—investing in direct response.
Define your audienceBefore actually producing a direct response commercial, decide who you want to see it. Then, in your ad, call out directly to your target audience. If you want to reach women, for instance, or stay-at-home parents, say so. Addressing specific customers in your ad will increase the chances that they’ll see it.
Price your product for TVStrong direct response TV relies on winning price points to succeed. The magic number for most ads is $19.95, as it is difficult during short commercials to establish a value proposition for products that cost more than that.
Produce an effective commercialDon’t go broke filming a flashy commercial; instead, focus on creating a strong ad that is both time and cost effective. After all, sometimes the most rudimentary ads end up being the most successful ones.
Create a call to actionThe most important piece of any direct response ad is the call to action. Don’t just tell potential customers what to buy; tell them how to buy it. Include a toll-free phone number—a must in direct response television—and, when possible, a Web address where customers can place orders; make sure both are displayed on screen for a total of at least 40 seconds for maximum absorption.
Buy air timeThere are several things to consider when making a television ad buy for your direct response effort. First is how much time to buy; while most TV ads last 30 seconds, 60-second spots are preferred for direct response ads. Second is when and where to buy time; while prime time network TV is an attractive proposition, you may have more luck—and spend less money—buying time during an off-peak time of day on a cable channel with lower, more targeted ratings.
Be ready to take ordersOnce you’ve aired your ad, be ready for the orders that TV viewers will inevitably place. That means having a staff in place to answer phones, make sales, answer customer service questions and ship products.
- Repeat your offer several times during your ad to help consumers internalize your message.
- Include facts and statistics in your ad in order to reinforce your claims; consumers are more likely to buy from you if they believe your product works.
- Save time and money by making as many decisions as possible in pre-production; in other words, decide where, who, what and when to film well before you cut checks for your ad production.
- Maximize profits by offering add-ons and upgrades to viewers who place orders by phone; train your telemarketers to cross-sell for optimum results.
- Extend sales opportunities beyond TV by including a sales insert or catalog in your shipped packages; when a customer receives his first order, he is primed for placing a second one.
- When customers have placed an order, don’t discard their names. Instead, add them to a list of high-potential buyers and include them in all of your direct mailings.