What do we know about Direct Response television advertising
In the first of an occasional series on best practice in direct response advertising, Beverly Barker looks at television
DIRECT RESPONSE advertising is not only the preserve of
Direct response advertising, whether 'above-the-line' or 'below-the-line',
provides the researcher or planner with additional quantitative
information and feedback upon which to base future decisions.
Direct Response Television (DRTV) planning requires the use of
traditional television research, in combination with quantitative
and qualitative analysis of response information.
Direct response television was started by Al Eicoff, a copywriter
in Chicago, in the 1940s. At around the same time the technique
was taken on by Lou Wunderman who wanted to produce accountable
advertising to market products and services directly to the consumer.
The growth through the '60s and '70s was further enhanced with
the introduction of cable television in the '80s. In 1986 the
home shopping networks were launched. For the '90s US DRTV is
exploiting advances in interactive technology, allowing the viewer
to complete the transaction at the time of broadcast.
According to in the US, 54 per cent
of all US commercials carry a telephone number, and after 10 pm
the figure rises to 85 per cent.
Within the UK, the advances in telephone technology for marketing
facilitated a rapid growth in the use of this technique between
1988 and 1992 (Exhibits 1 and 2), particularly from the charitable
and financial sectors. Freefone 0800 was introduced in 1985 (freephones
have been available in the US since 1967).
Creative testing has been notable, with commercial lengths increased
from the average 30-second executions to 60-second and 90-second
lengths. In 1992 120-second executions were being tested. However,
these have reduced in usage over 1993 and 1994.
At the end of 1993, AGB carried out the first DRTV research study
(sponsored by Channel 4 in conjunction with British Telecom).
The study merged two sets of data; the audience to DRTV commercials
and telephone response data. These were cross-analysed against
various criteria to establish what factors produce the best response
Broadcast Monitoring Services monitored the airtime to detect
the inclusion of a telephone response mechanism. The research
period consisted of three waves, each of two weeks, ending 03/10/93,
31/10/93 and 05/12/93. Commercials meeting these initial criteria
were recorded for date, channel, time, programming environment,
commercial length, brand/product advertised and duration of exposure
of the telephone number on screen. This detail was merged with
BARB audience data, with each commercial separately identified.
These data were in turn merged with the response information collated
by British Telecom. The report is available from many sources,
including Channel 4.
The research produced a series of industry averages that provide
a useful starting point for new advertisers.
A sample base of 91 campaigns delivering 8457 separate DRTV commercials
was used. Seventy separate telephone numbers were noted, indicating
that some advertisers use the same number for different brands.
These, and other results (Exhibit 3-6), indicate that viewers
may well not wish to spoil their viewing, and prefer to phone
The research was repeated, and extended, across the first quarter
of 1995, to establish this ongoing trend.
The planning of a successful DRTV campaign involves a ten-point
plan to address the key issues:
Test areas for new projects can be selected in the usual way:
TGI profiling (or other relevant data source) of product consumption
by region, and average impact delivery by time band, as provided
by BARB. Test area selection criteria may also be affected by
the need to minimise the cost (by choosing a small area), or to
deliver a cost-per-response no greater than a predetermined maximum (by choosing
from available cost data). For example:
Assuming a response rate of 0.05 per cent, the advertising would
generate 0.5 calls per thousand viewers. The media price per 1000
viewers would therefore need to be no more than £5.
In general, areas with a relatively small universe, and without
extreme user bias, are best selected to provide useful information
for prediction of response generation. The test campaign must
be constructed to ensure that the maximum information is derived
prior to 'roll-out'. Criteria should include:
Successful DRTV campaign planning demands an understanding of
the nature of the call-handling operation, the number of telephone
operators, and the length of time it takes an operator to handle
an effective call through to completion. This will establish maximum
generation targets by day part. Calculation of the individual
station impact delivery will then identify which airtime can and
cannot be used.
Television response arrives in peaks, with around 70 per cent
of all calls being generated within 15 minutes of airtime transmission
(source: Channel 4/BT research study). If the telephone marketing
team consists of 50 operators, the airtime on Central will be
borderline, whilst London will cause call overload and calls will
be lost. Defining accurate response rates from the test activity
is a priority for effective future planning ().
Planning DRTV advertising requires the overlaying of quantitative
research parameters to traditional TV response techniques. It
necessitates an understanding of the client's capability to process
response generated, and must be based on thorough campaign testing.
Having said that, it will enable the planner to produce an accurate
campaign forecast, and to control the advertising campaign in
a manner that is unavailable to the traditional TV advertiser.