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DRTV is Dead. Long Live DRTV.

As a direct marketer, I love all things digital.

Digital is a direct marketer’s dream world, and a significant amount of our agency’s work is helping our clients find, win and keep customers in the digital domain.

I love search, a.k.a. the most cost-efficient marketing tool ever created! I love display and native ads, in-app ads, geo-targeting, remarketing and – oh my – how I adore a well-designed landing page!

But, the truth is, if you were to ask me right now what medium is the undisputed champion of effective direct marketing, I would have to say TV – specifically, DRTV.

“What?! That’s ridiculous!” you say. “Everyone knows that TV and – by extension – DRTV is dead… right?”


DRTV is not only alive and well; it has a long, bright future in front of it.

How do I know this?

Simple. Because that’s what the data says, and as direct marketers, we always respect the data. We leave personal opinions, speculation and the ‘truth du jour’ to the brand advertisers, and focus solely on what works for our clients.

And, for many of our clients, DRTV works beautifully!

Here’s why.

First, TV delivers viewers in massive numbers. Numbers you simply can’t get anywhere else, including online.

Second, those viewers are amazingly receptive to advertising messages. TV viewers are in a very different psychological and emotional state than online rovers. TV viewers watch, listen and respond to DRTV commercials in a way they simply don’t respond to digital advertising – much as I wish they would.

Third, although it is true that TV viewership has lost some ground to online, virtually everyone in North America is still tethered to their TV sets.

The numbers don’t lie.

The most recent studies from Nielsen indicate that Americans still watch close to 35 hours of traditional television per week. Think about that for a second! That’s almost a full work week of television watching!

Even 18 to 24 year olds, who watch the least amount of television of all demographics, still consume 7.5 hours of traditional TV per week. Statistics show that as they get older, partner up and have kids, their TV viewing increases – not decreases.

Furthermore, despite all the hoopla about cable cutting, only 2.8% of the population doesn’t have either cable or a broadcast signal. That leaves 97.2% of the population still watching television – and many households have multiple televisions.

TV is still the cultural touchstone of the population. Even new services like Netflix rely largely on programming that was originally created and broadcast on traditional television.

Today, DRTV remains a top-performing, profitable and cost-effective marketing channel for business-to-consumer and drive-to-retail advertisers, as well as nonprofit organizations.

Bridging the Gap

Of course, because we live in a digital world and people prefer Googling to calling a 1-800 number, to run an effective DRTV campaign today, you must have also have a robust digital strategy in place to ensure viewers who see your spot and then search for you online are directed to where you want them to go.

We call this process of capturing DRTV-generated leads online “Bridging the Gap” – where digital tactics like search, site links, display, native ads and landing pages work to take your DRTV program to the next level. But that’s for another day and another article.

Right now, just remember that the pronouncements about the death of TV are, shall we say, a little premature. TV is still King and DRTV is still one of the best ways to sell products or services.

About the author

Ian French, Head of Strategy

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