fireballScene: A co-worker's going-away lunch. A guy, I'll call him Ned, is rounding up suckers, er...colleagues, to indulge in something called a “fireball” (one would think the name would be warning enough). Now, Ned can sell. It's in his DNA. He coaxes and cajoles, entices, overcomes objections, etc., and the next thing I know, a Fireball is on its way down my gullet. It is the foulest thing I have ever imbibed. It ruins the rest of my day. I can't get the taste out of my mouth. I want to punch him.

Stay with me here. My point is this: Direct response television (DRTV) advertising can sell, too. “Free!” “Limited Time Offer!” or a myriad of other phrases followed by exclamation points will make the phone ring or the website light up. No doubt about it. And if that's all you're looking to do, have at it. But, you're probably not getting your money's worth.

The scope of DRTV has expanded beyond the quick sale. Done right, even the hardest hitting DRTV commercial can create a connection with consumers — not just weasel a purchase out of an unwitting viewer. Which is why, more and more, you see DRTV campaigns from Fortune 500 companies using longer length commercials to inform, educate, demonstrate and sell using highly targeted ads that appeal to the right audience, at the right place and at the right time. DRTV can create loyal customers who might even tell their friends or post a positive review online. It can do more than generate a transaction. It can help build a brand.

So how do you take advantage of this new and improved approach to DRTV? Three ways:

  1. Treat viewers like educated consumers rather than gullible marks. Create a spot in which you sell via useful information and clearly articulated benefits rather than hype.
  2. Build the brand into every creative decision. The actors, the production values and the script should all tell the brand story as well as sell the product.
  3. Use the spot to create a long-term connection. Drive viewers to websites and social media, and add their names to the database.

Yes, like Ned, DRTV can sell like crazy. But, forget trying to simply shyster your way into a consumer's heart because, much like the Fireball, it will undoubtedly leave a bad taste in their mouth.

Originally published Sep 17, 2013 1:00:04 AM, updated December 03 2014