Success in any medium requires a thorough understanding of which techniques make a campaign breathe and grow versus those that cause it to wither and die on the vine. Winning creative for direct response television (DRTV) spots—whether short-form or long-form—hinges on several dictums that have not changed, regardless of consumers’ growing practice of commercial-skipping.
Of course, following the creative rules does not guarantee success. Tim Hawthorne, president and executive creative director of full-service DRTV agency Hawthorne Direct, in Fairfield, Iowa, points out: “Poor creative rarely can inhibit a great DRTV product from hitting a home run. Great creative rarely can prohibit a poor DRTV product from striking out.”
That said, great creative paired with a great product should produce orders beyond a direct marketer’s wildest dreams. Assuming you have at least a decent product, give it a fighting chance in today’s DRTV landscape by incorporating the following creative strategies into your campaign.
Make sure you spend sufficient time on the parts of the creative that are most important. In every medium, the critical tasks for your creative are to gain attention and close the sale. Not that everything in the middle doesn’t matter, but if you don’t gain attention and don’t close the sale, the rest of the spot won’t matter. In DRTV, this means you should focus your effort on making the opening (first 20 to 30 seconds) and the call to action as compelling as possible. The opening is akin to the envelope of a direct mail package, the front cover of a catalog, the headline of a space ad—if you don’t capture the prospect’s interest and curiosity here, what follows is for naught. So make that infomercial or spot opening emotionally powerful. In the call to action, leave nothing to chance: Make sure the prospect understands not only what she will get when she responds, but also the value of what she is purchasing. And don’t forget to include information about your guarantee, to note that the offer isn’t available in stores … in other words, close that sale!—Shari Altman, president of Altman Dedicated Direct, a direct marketing consultancy in Rural Hall, N.C., that specializes in continuity, auto-replenishment and loyalty programs