Monday, April 11, 2011

Direct Response 101

Direct response commercials have long been a staple of TV advertising. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, they're called "direct response" because they usually include a phone number or website whereby viewers contact the advertiser directly to order a product, rather than buying it in a store. Most direct response ads are revenue sharing opportunities for TV stations. That is, rather than buying the ad time from the TV station upfront like most "traditional" advertisers, direct response/revenue sharing advertisers usually share the profits with the TV station after each sale that is made. In other words, the TV station may or may not make any money from airing a direct response/revenue sharing commercial. That's why you mostly see them late at night, when a TV station has unsold ad time (and basically nothing to lose).

And generally, TV stations have complete control over which of these commercials they air and which ones they don't... Which makes it all the more puzzling how some of these commercials make it on the air. It's not that a lame product necessarily makes for a bad commercial. In fact, there are plenty of dumb direct response products that have commercials that fit in the "amazingly mediocre" category mentioned on the About page. However, it is entirely possible to have a lame product and a commercial disaster. This shameless pitch for a Vivitar 35mm film camera is a great example of that. (Here's a hint, dear advertiser, anyone who wants a poorly made 35mm camera still has the one they bought in 1983... and there's no shortage of them at Salvation Army either.)


  1. Good post on direct response commercials. Its helpful to know the importance of where and what ad times you're purchasing in order to effectively reach your target audience.

  2. Thanks for giving examples of how direct response can market products regardless of how old the technology or targeted audience is. Good read.