As Seen on (DR)TV

As Seen on (DR)TV

As Seen on DRTV

by Stacey Sheahan, Senior Media Planner/Buyer and DRTV Specialist at Catalyst Media Design

For many people, Direct Response Television, or DRTV, conjures up images of knives cutting through tin cans, tough stains disappearing with just a few sprinkles of a miracle product, or celebrities promoting their own lines of fitness equipment or beauty treatments. These spots may also include time-sensitive, hard-sell tactics, like “But wait, there’s more!”, or “Call now and receive a second one absolutely free!”, with the products only available through these direct sale channels.

While that may have been how DRTV started, the Internet has played a large part in changing its face and use, blurring the lines between direct-to-consumer and retail sales, reshaping the industry in the process. DRTV started as a direct-sales approach in the 1980s, gained steam as a paid media buying tactic in the 1990s, and has gone on to become an effective outlet to build awareness for a variety of companies and brands today, while still offering measurable sales. Today’s DRTV is highly evolved: capable and efficient, it’s a great tactic for small businesses or companies with a limited budget—a cost-effective way to reach a large television audience.

While traditional TV is generally purchased by a program or a set daypart such as “Prime Time,” DRTV is purchased using broader periods of time, requiring advertisers to be more flexible on when their commercials air. This flexibility is rewarded with spot rates typically 60 to 75 percent less than traditionally purchased television advertising. Many stations offer this lower-cost advertising option to help sell out available inventory, benefitting both the station and advertiser.

The purpose of a DRTV commercial is to provide information about a product or service and drive immediate response. Most DRTV spots include a strong call to action to ensure high response. DRTV commercials are also required by the television stations to include a response mechanism such as a phone number or website. Phone numbers and URLs are generally unique to each station or network to ensure performance tracking.

DRTV is further distinguished by spot length. “Short-form” refers to commercials under two minutes in length (60-second and 120-second spots are typical), while “long-form” refers to a spot longer than two minutes and can include the popular “30-minute infomercials.” These longer length spots are generally utilized when there is a great deal of education required in selling a product and/or the price point is high. Long-form advertisers sometimes convert to short-form when their products have achieved a level of brand awareness and no longer require the time needed for extended explanation.

Regardless of chosen length, a DRTV commercial may be purchased at a national or local level, on broadcast stations and cable as well as syndicated programming. The majority of stations and networks accept DRTV advertising. Buying strategies also differ when it comes to DRTV advertising; for example, a buyer can purchase DRTV direct from the station or network from the overall commercial rate card, which includes lower rates for spots purchased specifically as DRTV, or the buyer can purchase “remnant” inventory, which is available at an even lower rate but is more likely to be “pre-empted” or bumped out if a higher-paying advertiser comes along.

DRTV buys are measured based on response, not on Gross Rating Points (GRPs) like Traditional TV. Each advertiser has their own individual response, sales, and media efficiency goals, and their DRTV campaign is optimized toward those set goals.

At Catalyst Media Design, we have a detailed strategy for how we plan, buy, and optimize DRTV for our clients. First, we discuss and confirm the parameters of the campaign with each client, including target audience, target geography, budget, campaign goals, spot length, and additional factors as needed. If the target is broad, national coverage is considered. If the target is in local markets, we’ll only review local buying options.

Our media team reviews the target audience (demographic) for the product or service and then determines which stations or networks and time periods should be included. For example, if the company has an older target demographic, we may recommend news programming; for a male-skewing target, we may suggest ESPN. Schedules are then built and presented to clients for review. Upon approval, our buying team negotiates with the stations to ensure each client receives the lowest rates and best placements, using traditional ratings data along with past response data for the brand or category, if available.

We also work with each client and production team to employ proper tracking mechanisms to ensure the spot qualifies for DRTV buying and will provide response and performance data. Once the buys are placed, our buyers monitor clearance daily. Spots that are pre-empted are reallocated where possible. We also utilize dedicated tracking software to track spot times as well as response times—including calls, web leads, and more to produce a Cost Per Call (CPC). We then make adjustments to lower the CPC ongoing, such as shifting stations, dayparts, creative/ads, and even markets.

Another area we track and measure is dubbed the “halo effect,” referring to the effect DRTV spots have on other media channels, including increases in web traffic, click-through rates on digital campaigns, response rates on direct mail pieces and more. We believe that DRTV schedules should be constantly evolving and changing based on performance to maximize clients’ ROI.

In a time when the media landscape is highly fragmented and budgets have shifted toward digital, DRTV remains an effective, efficient, and trackable channel for brands small and large. If your brand is seeking direct leads and sales, a cost-efficient way to increase awareness, and an effective approach to utilizing additional media channels, DRTV may be exactly what you need.