Direct Response TV Media: A Primer

By Greg Sarnow

Can you imagine a television media campaign without a budget? You're probably thinking, no budget, no media! How about a campaign where you have to adjust the buy DAILY?

No budget, change the buy everyday, doesn't sound like much fun, does it?

This is Direct Response Television (DRTV) Media buying. The media for 800 number advertising, for infomercials and direct response short form, one minute and two minute commercials.

Short Form DR Television Media purchases accounted for upward of $5 Billion in 2000. Infomercial media purchases accounted for $950 MM. Put them together and that is no trump change to say the least.

The questions are, "How did the direct response media industry grow up right alongside the traditional advertising agency industry? And "Why do only a couple of major ad agencies know how to buy direct response media?"

Until very recently, most ad agency executives advised their clients to pass on Direct Response Television Strategies. More often than not you would hear the story of a Fortune 500 company doing an Infomercial or a DR spot in spite of their agency's advice.



While the reasons were numerous, the lack of media knowledge and the inability to profit from a media niche market kept this strategy off the radar screen for a long time.

With the numbers I mentioned above, and the Fortune 500 entry into direct response TV in the last few years, things are changing fast. Many top agencies have created divisions adding "Direct "to their name and as of today, General Motors has done 3 infomercials in the last 18 months, most of the major pharmaceutical companies use DR since the FDA changed its laws about prescription drug advertising, and the insurance industry as well as dot coms use direct response for product introductions and branding.

True Direct Response strategy elicits a response from the consumer watching the commercial. The response can be (a) an order for a product or service, (b) an inquiry for more information; or (c) an inquiry where to purchase.

Whatever the response sought, success or failure is measured by how many people respond in the desired way vs. the cost of the media and other costs involved.

Calling a TV station, getting the rates and ordering the media for your client is about 10% of what it takes to be a good DRTV media buyer. The other 90%?

- 800 Number Selection - Telemarketing Set-Up and Reporting - What Aired & What Didn't (In DRTV short form, the price you pay for media will determine what percentage of your media buy will run.) - Results, Results, Results - CPO's, CPL's, Ratios,


In Direct Response, a copy of the commercial has to be sent to the station. Sound normal? Well it isn't, because each station has to have a tape sent with an 800 number customized to the tape. Choosing that 800 number has to be done with extreme care so that you accurately determine what station a person was watching when

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