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Direct Response TV Basics and Infomercial FAQs
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What is Direct Response TV?
Direct Response Television, or DRTV for short, includes any television advertising that asks consumers to respond directly to the company — usually either by calling an 800 number, by visiting a web site or another strong call to action. DRTV is form direct response marketing. Direct Response TV (DRTV) refers to one to two minute commercials or half hour paid programming made for TV This contrasts with commercials where the objective is to increase only the visibility of the brand name. Lead generating commercials also are considered DRTV. This form of television is fully accountable as far as effectiveness because the marketer can measure the response.
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What is Direct Response TV good for?
Television is still the most powerful medium available to advertisers to reach mass audiences and show visual demos. DRTV uses this unrivaled power of TV to create the “impulse to buy” and drive sales to retail, web and other distribution channels. DRTV is one of the quickest, most cost effective methods to introduce new products and brands. DRTV has created overnight sensations and long lasting brands. Both long and short form Direct Response Television provides companies with immediate information about the effectiveness of their ads. With a successful DRTV campaign you are building a loyal customer base of people who will continue to buy your products and support your brand after their initial purchase.
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What are the benefits of a Direct Response TV campaign?
The main benefit is a quick way to see a successful ROI and to generate high margin sales of a new product in a short time frame. Both long and short form Direct Response campaigns provide brands with immediate information about the effectiveness of their ads and the relevance of their products in the market place. If a campaign not working, you can change it or change the media spend to get an improved response. And with a successful DRTV campaign you are building a loyal customer base of people who will continue to buy your products and add-ons long after their initial purchase.
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What are the different types of DRTV commercials?
IMAGE There are two types of direct response television, short form and long form. Short form is any DRTV commercial that is two minutes or less in length. Long form direct response is any television commercial longer than two minutes. This was the accepted term for an infomercial from 1984 until “infomercial” came into vogue in 1988. The most common time period available for purchase as “long form” infomercial media is 28 minutes, 30 seconds in length. Long form is used for products that need to educate the consumer and create awareness, and typically have a higher price. A relatively small amount or media time may be purchased in lengths less than 30 minutes but more than 2 minutes. Five minutes is the most commonly available time of these lengths.
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What kinds of products do best with DRTV infomercials?
DRTV infomercials are great advertising mediums for new and innovative products that can be demonstrated and shown to make life easier and better. Beauty products such as skin, hair. cosmetics and other personal care products; Health and fitness products; nutritional supplements; house wares and appliances have been among the most successful products marketed through DRTV. Financial and business opportunities and some educational and personal improvement products have also done well.
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Is DRTV media different than brand commercial media?
The main differences between DRTV media and traditional brand media are the calls to action and the time of the commercial. DRTV commercial have a call to action that asks the consumer to do something such as pick up the phone or go to a website after seeing the show. Brand commercial are generally for brand awareness. Most brand commercial are either 30 seconds or 60 seconds while DRTV campaigns generally run for 1 minute, 2 minutes or longer.
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Do people really buy in the middle of the night off of the TV?
The short answer is yes. People buy all day and all night. With the web and mobile web usually only inches away from someone at all times, people are buying 24 hours a day. Most DRTV campaigns do run at night but there are shows that are running all day with great results.
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How do you measure success of a DRTV campaign?
There are many ways to define success in a campaign in terms of either response, ROI or lifetime value of a customer. There is no one success metric as each campaign is different and may have different goals. The most common metrics in the industry are Cost Per Order (CPO), Media Efficiency Ratio (MER) and Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). CPO refers to how much media you are spending to generate a single DRTV order. The CPO is calculated by taking your DRTV media spend for a period of time and dividing it by the number of orders received. The more orders you generate against a DRTV media spend, the lower the CPO. The lower the CPO… the better the results! MER refers to how much revenue a campaign is generating against a particular media spend. The MER is calculated by taking your Campaign revenue and dividing it by your DRTV media spend. The more revenue your campaign generates against the DRTV media spend, the higher the MER. The higher the MER… the better the results! The Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is a metric used to determine the total average cost your company spends to acquire a new customer. Take your total sales and marketing spend for a specific time period and divide by the number of new customers for that time period.
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What happens if my DRTV campaign performance starts to fade?
After about one year of airing, the original show may need to be re-edited with enough differences to the creative or the offer to give it a fresh feel and maybe target a slightly different audience. Or, a new show with a new creative could be considered.
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Do I need to have upsells for a successful DRTV campaign?
Some research has shown that “upsells” added 15% to 29% to DRTV orders. It is important that your product has upsells will have the chance to create new and related products that can be sold to your loyal following. These “back end” sales will help to justify the costs of the media of your campaigns.
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What other options are available for me to market my successful infomercial brand and product?
Having your infomercial on the TV is only step one for a long term and successful DRTV brand. Once it is running you will need to take advantage of all kinds of marketing options to help you acquire new customers and get more lifetime value out of your existing customers. Most successful DRTV brands use a mix of digital and traditional media to expand and grow the brand. Radio, celebrity endorsements, PR, word of mouth, email marketing, search engine marketing, social media, retargeting, web video, display web advertising and more should all be used to sustain and grow a DRTV brand.
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How long does a typical long form infomercial production take?
The typical long form infomercial production from the very start of creative process through final delivery ranges from 2 months to 6 months. There are many factors that can change this such as amount of footage that a brand may already have, type of product, whether a testimonial group is needed and overall production value.
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What percentage of DRTV sales are online vs. on the phone?
It differs widely from product to product mostly depending on the target audience as well as the calls to actions in each show. We have seen explosive growth in the web and mobile web and some of our DRTV campaigns are running 80% web to 20% phone.
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Do I need a website to have a successful DRTV campaign?
Yes! You do need a website that takes orders for a successful campaign. Along with a standard website your DRTV website should be optimized for both the mobile and tablet shopper with strong and clear calls to action that help convert web visitors to shoppers.
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Do I need to offer phone sales, telemarketing and a call center to take orders?
Most DRTV campaigns use a mix of web sales and phone sales. Phone sales are great at converting shoppers at a high rate, adding value to each order, providing customer service and help with audiences who still don’t feel comfortable paying for things online. The phone and call center also helps give you immediate results tied to each media airing that can help assess the results of the DRTV campaign. Web attribution models are starting to catch up with the phone in this area and some DRTV campaigns are web only but we find that the phone is still important.
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Is the infomercial product unique and revolutionary?
Is your idea for an infomercial product new and exciting? Or is this the same boring everyday product you can buy on the shelves at Wal-Mart for ten bucks? TV is the place to catch people’s attention with the latest and greatest “revolutionary” products. How do we compel someone to drop the remote, pay attention to the TV and even pick up the phone and give their credit card number to a perfect stranger to order a product they never heard of or thought they needed until a few minutes ago? The answer is that we sell products that are revolutionary breakthrough products that simply can’t be found anywhere else. And, even if you can find it, or something similar elsewhere, you can’t find it for this price (value!) with all of these extra free bonuses (system!). This is where production and product positioning are critical.
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For online DRTV sales, do I need a mobile website?
Yes and no. You may not need a “mobile website” on the first day of your campaign but your website does need to be viewable in a mobile web browser. In the very short future, the mobile version of the site will be a 100% requirement. Your site may not need to be “mobile specific” but your overall design whether you use responsive design or another format will need to take into account that the highest percentage of traffic will be from mobile devices.
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Can you show dramatic results with the products?
We can’t say it enough…seeing is believing. There is no substitute for a product that truly delivers powerful results. Let’s look at great infomercial products and brands like Proactiv and Murad Acne Complex. Aside from the mass appeal acne products have, both of these products offer tremendous “before and after” testimonials clearly showing the powerful results of their products. If you suffered from acne or breakouts, wouldn’t you be willing to try this product when you see that it clearly has worked for so many people just like you? Weight loss and fitness shows (successful ones) also do a good job of showing dramatic “before and afters” as well as compelling testimonial stories that most of us can truly relate to and take to heart.
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Does the infomercial product have mass appeal?
You may have developed the most amazing product in the world with the best results ever, but if your product is targeted towards a very small and limited audience, you’re simply not going to hear phones ringing off the hook. Murad® Acne Complex® and Proactiv® have both had long and impressively successful TV campaigns that are still going strong after many years on air. Granted, they are both great products complemented by very strong commercial productions, but undoubtedly an aiding factor is that more than 30 million Americans suffer from acne and other causes of breakouts. Clearly, there is mass appeal for quality products that can clear up your skin.

Weight-loss is another great category for mass appeal. Aside from the staggering number of people who are clinically considered to be obese and in dire need of a weight loss and fitness program, have you met many people who don’t think they need to lose weight or get in better shape? Categories such as fitness, weight-loss, anti-aging, housewares and hair replacement (just to name a few) are tremendous examples of products with mass appeal that have limitless potential.
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What is a sustainable DR Margin?
One of the biggest mistakes newcomers to direct response marketing make is underestimating the importance of a large margin. In general, a successful product to be sold on TV needs a cost to sales price of at least 5-1 or more. This means a product being sold on TV for $100 should have a total cost of goods not exceeding $20. This is due in large part to the media costs you will need to incur in order to air your infomercial or spot.

One of the main exceptions to this 5-1 rule is when a product has a continuity such as a diet pill, skincare line or other product that has a fast use-up rate so it can be shipped and billed to consumers on an ongoing basis. Therefore, continuity-based products can have lower margins on the front end and still be successful on TV. The amount of traffic a television infomercial campaign drives to retail channels is an additional factor to be considered and one that Launch DRTV will discuss with you when reviewing your potential direct response marketing campaign.
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Can the product be demonstrated?
Is it easy to use? Pain free? Fun? Fast? Are the results substantial and obvious? These are critical components to selling a product on TV and they must all be demonstrated effectively in your commercial. Remember that TV is a visual medium. Since seeing truly is believing for most of us, a good infomercial production should easily and clearly demonstrate a product’s features and effectiveness on television.
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Does the product offer a great and unique value?
There’s no doubt about it: we all love a good deal. And there’s no more important place to offer a great deal with strong value than on TV. Great TV products all have the potential for a high level of “perceived value” to be demonstrated. A seasoned direct response firm such as Launch DRTV will play a key role in helping to develop and emphasize the perceived value that exists within your product. One of the ways we accomplish this is by expanding your existing product into an entire “system” or program with further-reaching product benefits. Consumers love lots of “stuff” so it’s critical to make sure your system has numerous components to it.
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Do I need a celebrity for a successful infomercial?
Celebrity talent is not needed for every show. There are many successful infomercials that use non-celebrities and “real people”. The advantages of using a celebrity are that a celebrity can lend credibility to the show and help capture the person who just happens to land on the show airing. The right celebrity brings an instant connection between the show and the viewer. Some of the best DRTV campaigns of all time have mixed a celebrity with real people to help convey the brand message.
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What has a higher long term cost, DRTV production or media buying?
DRTV production is mainly a one time and fixed cost whereas media buying is ongoing and depending on the reach and the targets can cost a significant amount of money. You may have more costs for production if there are edits or reshoots but the ongoing cost for media on a successful and wide reaching campaign will far outweigh the production costs in the long term.
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What networks, programs and stations offer DRTV spots?
Depending on your budget your DRTV spots can run almost anywhere from broadcast (NBC, Fox, CBS, ABC), national cable (ESPN, Comedy Central, Fox News, CNBC), local cable and regional cable.
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Should I run a media test for my infomercial?
Yes! The use of real world testing is one of the key things that sets direct response television apart from other kinds of marketing. Media testing in DRTV serves two purposes. It confirms or refutes the creative and helps to establish the goals and metrics for future media buying decisions. An infomercial media test is usually conducted on a small scale in markets or channels selected either because they reliably reflect national buying patterns for many DRTV products, or because they’ve been good predictors before.
"To infomercial or not to infomercial... that is but the question...."
At Launch DRTV, we measure our success by the results of each and every infomercial production, not by the sheer number of projects we complete. If direct response marketing is right for you and your product, then we want to be the ones to help you make it happen. But if DRTV is not your best fit, we'll be the first to tell you. This is how we avoid turning our clients into the masses of failed infomercial productions that take place each year. Here are a few things you should be thinking about when considering if DRTV is your best move:
Happy Clients With Happy Words
"As EVP of Long form Media at Havas, I regularly recommend Launch DRTV to our clients. The reason is simple. When Launch DRTV produces a show, the chances for success are very high. I've bought media for many campaigns produced by Launch DRTV including Jockey Bra, TapouT XT, Murad Resurgence and more. The shows produced by Launch not only work with some of the best response rates in the industry, but they have the highest average order values and retentions. The bottom line is I buy media, and I get to buy a lot more of it when Launch DRTV produces the show! "

Dustin Cohn, CMO,
Jockey International
"To infomercial or not to infomercial... that is but the question...."
At Launch DRTV, we measure our success by the results of each and every infomercial production, not by the sheer number of projects we complete. If direct response marketing is right for you and your product, then we want to be the ones to help you make it happen. But if DRTV is not your best fit, we'll be the first to tell you. This is how we avoid turning our clients into the masses of failed infomercial productions that take place each year. Here are a few things you should be thinking about when considering if DRTV is your best move:
Happy Clients With Happy Words
"As EVP of Long form Media at Havas, I regularly recommend Launch DRTV to our clients. The reason is simple. When Launch DRTV produces a show, the chances for success are very high. I've bought media for many campaigns produced by Launch DRTV including Jockey Bra, TapouT XT, Murad Resurgence and more. The shows produced by Launch not only work with some of the best response rates in the industry, but they have the highest average order values and retentions. The bottom line is I buy media, and I get to buy a lot more of it when Launch DRTV produces the show! "

Dustin Cohn, CMO,
Jockey International

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