Why Do DRTV Commercials Have the Advantage Over Infomercials?

by Peter Koeppel on Feb 4, 2016 12:00:00 AM Digital Marketing, DRTV, e-Commerce

Why_Do_DRTV_Commercials_Have_The_Advantage_Over_Infomercials_1-073545-edited.jpegSince the modern infomercial was born in 1984, many direct marketers have believed that it gave them a decided advantage over short-form DRTV, typically defined as 60- second and two-minute spots. The reason was simple: infomercials gave advertisers twenty-eight-and-half minutes to convincingly make a pitch and close a sale, a feat that could frequently be achieved in one airing.

Today, however, with media and audience fragmentation at an all time high, the world of DRTV is quite different. DRTV still manages to use the advantage of longer lengths and cheaper media than its general advertising brethren, but much like those “image” advertisers, DRTV is now the first step in a longer process. Increasingly, TV viewers are using their second screen to research products and services they see advertised on TV to form an opinion and, in some cases, make the ultimate decision to buy. That is what a recent study from Cornell, Harvard, and the University of California, San Diego, discovered when they examined $3.4 billion worth of TV commercials. As a recent article by H. Roger Segelken in the Cornell Review observed, researchers concluded that, “Smartphone and tablet proliferation puts a virtual store in the hands of every consumer.”

This suggests that what DRTV is really doing is creating awareness and stimulating curiosity and desire. That being the case then, a compelling argument can be made that short-form DRTV or spots have many decided advantages over infomercials.


DRTV commercials drive Web traffic.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Spots Run on All Networks and Stations In All Dayparts: Not all networks and stations run infomercials—especially news networks—but all of them run spots. Furthermore, infomercials are largely relegated to overnights and weekends when viewership is lower. Yes, there are some exceptions, but there is little to no inventory available in prime access or primetime when audiences are at their most robust. Not so with spots.
  • Spots May Not Be Skipped as Easily: While any recorded program can be time shifted, spots that appear in the middle of programming (versus being the programming) are less likely to be skipped. This is especially true in live programming such as news and sports and social media relevant, ‘event’ programming such as reality television and competition shows.
  • Spots Allow You to Reach More Targeted Audiences: While it’s true that infomercial time periods can be bought on targeted networks, the chances of a paid program attracting a specific demographic are suspect because they are so easy to skip or channel surf out of. On the other hand, spots that are embedded in a particular show have a much higher probability of appealing to a particular target demographic because the audience is engaged and more likely to stick around during the commercials.
  • Spots Allow You to Reach Bigger Audiences Capable of Being Quantified: Because you can run spots in all dayparts in programming that is measured by Nielsen, it’s possible to quantify the size and demographic nature of your audience. Further, because your spot will likely not be buried in a paid programming block, it will draw a larger audience. With so many potential buyers turning to the Web, having data such as reach and frequency is especially crucial information to have in order to evaluate the effectiveness of your media. Infomercial airtime is not always rated, making it sometimes impossible to measure audience share, reach, and frequency.
  • Spots Allow You to Have More Frequency: For the most part, you can attain far more frequency with a spot budget. In this hyper-fragmented world, this is especially important. Think of it as more opportunities to cast your line in the hopes of catching more fish—in this case your target prospects.

With shorter attention spans and endless ways for them to be diverted, shorter bursts of information that cut to the chase are clearly the way of the future. And while the presence of online video has become critical for all marketers, there is still nothing quite like TV advertising to reach a broad audience. Spots allow advertisers to reach potential buyers in more ways with more frequency. That’s why so many dot-coms are now turning to DRTV to scale their businesses, just like traditional As Seen On TV advertisers and mainline brands. They’ve discovered a simple truth: that sometimes shorter-length adverts can be spot on!

Peter Koeppel is Founder and President of Koeppel Direct, an influential direct response media firm focused on direct response television (DRTV), online, print and radio media buying, marketing and campaign management. He can be reached at 972-732-6110 or online at pkoeppel@koeppeldirect.com or twitter.com/DRTVBUYER.

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