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Media Zone: The DNA of DRTV

1 Apr, 2009 By: Mike Powell Response


Everyone wants to know the secret to direct response television (DRTV) advertising. In a world where converging technologies facilitate viewer responses, commercials bear URLs, and Web advertising seduces business with pay-as-you-go models, DRTV is appealing.

Mike Powell
Mike Powell

Advertisers who wouldn't have touched this tactic a few years ago are intrigued, and are siphoning funds away from traditional brand-only TV. Predictably, general market agencies are scrambling to learn more — to become facile in the world of selling direct. I'm in a good position to spill some DRTV secrets to the uninitiated.

After more than 15 years in the brand advertising business, I'm a DRTV convert. In fact, my enthusiasm prompted me to want to write something along the lines of This-Many Steps to Great DRTV. Unfortunately, a secret sequence of events doesn't exist.

Then it hit me. Rather than a series of steps to follow, like assembly instructions for a grill or backyard swing-set, could it be that successful DRTV spots have common elements that can be applied and work together in myriad ways? Kind of like DNA: core essential elements, assembled in an infinite number of combinations.

We've all heard that advertising isn't brain surgery. I suppose it's not genetic engineering either. But maybe it's a little like creative engineering. So, here's my perspective on the double helix that is DRTV. Specifically, here are the four essential elements:

 

Element 1: The E Factor

 

Your best chance at avoiding the tyranny of the remote or the mouse is to engage your prospect. Important point: this is all about them, not you. It's been said that a good salesperson is a good listener. But what do you do when you're not even in the room?

In the monologue of pre-produced video — on TV or online — the listening happens beforehand. Immerse yourself in your target audience, appreciate the value of your product or service to them, and figure out how the two fit together. You can't bully someone into responding to your offer with repetition and volume. You have to engage, not assault.

 

Element 2: CrV (Create Value)

 

Before you can elicit a phone call or mouse click, you must communicate value — and I don't mean how much it costs. Your commercial has to create value, enough that someone will not only be willing, but indeed want to spend money and invest time to get it. This isn't the time or place to imply or intimate. Be clear. Be concise. Be explicit. Demonstrate. Explain. Educate if you can. Share a success story. Does it resolve a conflict? Does it solve a problem? Does it do something surprising? Construct your case, and make it airtight.

 

Element 3: X-clusivity

 

Given a choice, a potential customer will almost always opt to wait. In the DRTV world of immediate and measurable response, this is not good. As a DRTV advertiser, it's critical to communicate exclusivity. Are there no others like it? Is this the only way to get it? Is it the only one available at this low price?

Engineer your exclusivity. Is there a respected brand association that separates it from the rest? Is there a personality who uses nothing else? Dig deep. And forget about faux exclusivity. Be genuine.

 

Element 4: Sell

 

Wait for it ... then sell. Timing has a lot to do with making the sale. Sell too soon, and you're likely to get the proverbial door slam. DRTV practitioners tell you to get the phone number up early. But it's going to have more impact when it coincides with something meaningful in the script. If you can, sweeten the offer in case someone is on the fence. Clearly ask your prospect to buy and tell them how. If your commercial works, selling is easy because your consumer is anxious to buy.

Of course, engaging the audience, creating value, engineering exclusivity and selling soundly are not for the faint of heart. DRTV spots are judged failures or successes within days or weeks after they air. You can't hide behind great production values or clever concepts — it works or it doesn't.

So add one internal element to your DRTV DNA: guts. You've got to be brave to be in this business, and if you're worried about being judged on every commercial you create, don't do one with an 800 number.

Mike Powell is senior vice president/executive creative director at Chicago-based A. Eicoff & Co. (www.eicoff.com)


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