Is Direct Response Television as Effective as it was Decades Ago?



DRTV stands for Direct Response Television. It’s a standard commercial that encourages viewers to respond directly to the company, either by calling an 800 number or visiting the company’s website. Aside from being a medium for advertising, DRTV can also be taken as a form of direct marketing. Los Angeles video production company Brandefy even defines it as an “effective direct response campaign” that can run as short as thirty seconds or as long as thirty minutes.



Some people would argue that DRTV and the modern infomercial has been around almost as long as television has. Every commercial that has encouraged the viewers to “call this number NOW!” can be classified as DRTV. If you want specifics, some can pinpoint it to Herbalife’s pep rallies broadcast every week. This was during 1984.

Herbalife generated millions of dollars in revenue through this marketing campaign, and it wasn’t long before other Fortune 500 companies noticed and jumped onto the bandwagon. Media moguls and number crunchers noted how the multiple benefits of DRTV could offset its supposed drawbacks. The cost of production (running one 30-second media spot during primetime costs roughly the same as running several dozen DRTV airings over different stations) was one of DRTV’s most attractive qualities.



Instead of calling an 800 toll-free number, viewers can now visit a website to get more information on the product advertised. The format remains the same, but the specifics can change.

Advertisers and marketing producers agree that DRTV has transitioned over to the world of online video quite smoothly. In fact, DRTV campaigns are also best known for their versatility. Whether launched through social media, online video hosting platforms, or simple mobile advertising, the campaign does not lose its effectiveness.

Of course, DRTV has had to make adjustments to meet the demands of this digital age – what marketing medium hasn’t? – but by and large, the concept remains the same. Video marketing has already proven its strength as an advertising medium. Combined with classic, DRTV’s direct-to-consumer approach, DRTV online campaigns – when done right – encourage fast turnaround and swift buying decisions. It’s all a matter of self-regulation, constant market research, and refining selling techniques.



Some would argue that the classic “but wait – there’s more! If you call now” line isn’t as effective as it was a decade or so ago. While that is a valid argument (because no one likes a pushy salesman), DRTV has had years to polish its technique. The CTA (Call to Action) of the commercial depends on the message the producers are trying to drive. Some DRTV campaigns are as subtle as – and could be mistaken for – regular sixty-seconders.

Some advertisers argue that the directness of DRTV is a welcome change of pace in a world of subtle brand awareness and fifteen-second mobile ads that wait until the end to flash their logo.

Despite conservative advertisers looking down on its blunt and direct approach – the marketing equivalent of the travelling salesman’s foot-in-door technique – many people don’t see DRTV as a hard sell. As-seen-on-TV products and late-night television shopping still exist. The trend hasn’t died down despite the rise of the internet. If anything, it’s stronger than ever.

The numbers don’t lie; whatever DRTV is doing, it’s doing it right.