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Why Is Your DRTV Tanking? Your Commercial Sucks.

We get a lot of calls from frustrated marketers looking for our help. They are struggling to understand why their well-planned, well-researched and well-executed DRTV campaign (usually done by a brand agency) isn’t delivering the results it could — and should — be.

Is it the media?
Is it TV viewership?
Is Mercury in retrograde?

Unfortunately, the answer is no, no and no.

Nine times out of ten, the problem is the commercial itself, specifically the creative.

Here’s the bitter truth: too many marketers, in the mad rush to win awards and showcase their style and panache, have forgotten that direct response marketing is both an art and a science.

And, when you’re making a direct response commercial and you ignore the science of direct response – you’re doomed to failure.

Ironically, these poorly performing commercials aren’t all bad; they have engaging creative, often with lots of humor; they are clever and great fun to watch.

In other words, they are great brand-building commercials.

But, they are terrible DRTV commercials. They have no sell. No passion for the product or service they are promoting. And, they make little or no effort to convince consumers they should stop whatever they’re doing and buy this product or service.

Why? Because they don’t have any of the proven, time-tested techniques that drive response. Whoever produced them failed to include the elements that are a necessary part of every successful DRTV commercial, such as:

 An unrelenting focus on how the product or service will benefit the consumer.

• Repetition of key benefits to ensure they are ingrained in the consumer’s mind.

• Effective use of titles and graphics to reinforce key selling points.

• A sales proposition that is simple, clear and irrefutable.

• Key words that generate response such as Free. (Even the offer for a free brochure has proven to lift response rates.)

• Relevant information and lots of it. (Consumers care far more about product content than high-concept creative.)

• The knowledge that humor is an ineffective tool for selling. When is the last time you laughed, then went out and bought something? Being funny is definitely not appropriate if you’re marketing anything involving financial services, e.g. credit cards, loans, mutual funds or insurance, to name a few.

• An understanding that your award-winning, super-jacked soundtrack, composed by the 20-year-old Creative Director, is drowning out the voiceover.

• A strong and compelling Call to Action to close out the commercial.

Why do so many marketers make these obvious omissions when even a cursory amount of research would reveal that DRTV demands the inclusion of these elements?

I can only assume it’s because many marketers simply don’t understand that successful, highly profitable, make-your-CEO-smile DRTV campaigns don’t happen by accident.

They make the mistake of thinking that because DRTV commercials look simple, they are simple and therefore, anyone can create a winning campaign, including people with only marginal experience with direct response.

And when that happens, the result is almost always a safe, inoffensive and easy-to-watch commercial… that bombs.

In every discipline, from engineering to ski jumping, there are certain fundamental principles that must be followed for success. Oddly enough, when it comes to DRTV, many marketers think you can simply throw a bunch of images up on-screen, shout out “Call or Go Online Now,” and voilà!

Sadly, while that may work for brand, it doesn’t cut it in the world of direct marketing.

So, if you’re wondering why your DRTV campaign isn’t hitting the numbers it once did – before you look at media or write off TV as yesterday’s medium – take a good, long look at your creative. Chances are that an overhaul, with renewed focus on direct response fundamentals, will bring it back to life and get you the results you need!

About the author

Ian French, Head of Strategy

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