Comparing Direct Response TV Commercials to More Traditional Commercials

direct response advertising vs traditional advertising

Ready to advertise your product or service? Commercials might be the first thing that you think of when it comes to advertising. But not all commercials are created equally.

Knowing the difference between direct response TV commercials and more traditional commercials can save you time, money and improve your results. 

Here’s a breakdown of the differences in these commercial types and what you can expect from them:

Traditional Commercial Advertising

You can’t turn on the television without seeing some commercials – literally! Commercial advertising is what primarily pays for the programming that you’re able to watch on TV. Traditional commercials that show up between shows are typically called “branding” commercials. In most cases they showcase a company’s brand or the value of what they do.

Think back to the famous Folgers commercials that consist of various family members getting up early to start a steaming pot of coffee for everyone. As family members rise, the jingle reminds the audience that the “best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.” Nowhere in the commercial does the announcer ask the audience to take action and “buy now.” There’s no price discussion, call to action or number to call.

Traditional commercial advertising like this is designed to create an emotional response that is then related back to the brand. These emotional triggers can often be used with products that have no discernable advantages over one or the other. Most people wouldn’t be able to pick out Folgers in a taste test, but the brand advertising makes Folgers more memorable than its other counterparts.

With brand advertising, there’s little or no direct call to action at the end of the commercial. There’s often no urgency to buy, no reference information or contact information. It’s meant to create an emotional experience that the consumer can reflect on once they are making a buying decision.

Direct Response Commercial Advertising

Direct response commercial advertising produces a similar result to brand advertising – selling more products – but they go about it in entirely different ways. Direct response commercials are designed to get customers to “pick up the phone and call right now!” or go online to order. They are less subtle than brand advertising because they are asking for the sale directly and making it very clear how much the product is and why consumers should buy it.

There are a few basic variations on the direct response commercial advertising spectrum. Direct to the public commercials are the infomercial programs that most people are familiar with. They market products in 5-minute to half-hour long-form or :30 to :120 short-form commercials, and ship products directly to consumers through web or toll-free numbers.

Direct response commercials can also be created to drive traffic directly to a brick and mortar store. You can recognize these commercials by their call to action to find “XYZ brand at these fine establishments.”  Often retail oriented commercials will display the logos of stores that carry the products so consumers can easily find them and they might also include the website for the product.

The rise of the web as a tool for advertising and purchasing has effected direct response commercials as well. It’s made the direct to the public advertising much more common because this media can be used online as well as on television. In addition, the web serves as a natural extension of a television commercial campaign. While a broadcast commercial only has about 30 seconds to make the case for the product or service, the web can capture much more of the visitor’s attention and increase the likelihood for a sale.

While traditional commercials and direct response advertising both serve a similar purpose, they perform in very different ways.


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