By Robert Ian French, Founder

The best way to create powerful, highly profitable DRTV commercials is to avoid making the strategic mistakes that too often ruin a promising campaign.

Here are the Big Five and how to avoid them:

1. Focusing on What Makes You Different (Instead of What Makes You Good)

Every company naturally wants to focus on what differentiates their product or service from their competitors’. But in DRTV, that’s usually a bad idea. Here’s why: although the unique features of your product or service may convince consumers to purchase it instead of a competitor’s, it’s not what makes them want to purchase the product in the first place. It’s not what drives their decision to buy and, if you focus on differences too much, you risk not focusing on what the consumer is really interested in: the core value of the product. To be effective, a DRTV commercial must demonstrate the value of the product first, then – and only then – why your version of the product is better. To avoid the “we’re better than them” trap, list (in order of importance) how this product will improve the consumer’s life. This is your “selling hierarchy” and should be the backbone of your DRTV script. My guess is that the features which differentiate your product from your competitors’ will not be at the top of the list. Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mention your unique attributes, but they should be the icing on the cake – not the cake itself.

2. Weak Call to Action

I have always found it ironic that so many advertising agencies (and many senior marketing executives) think “selling” is a dirty word. You can always identify their work because, although their commercials do a good job of presenting the product’s benefits, they don’t have a strong call to action and fail to close the deal. They don’t summarize the key benefits or encourage the consumer to buy now. As a result, the commercial dies on the vine. The call to action (CTA) is an essential component of any effective DRTV commercial. Tweaking the CTA by increasing the size of the graphics, repeating the key selling propositions and asking the consumer to act will almost always increase your response. In DRTV, it always pays to finish strong.

3. Using High-Concept Creative

Good DRTV commercials are always – I mean, always – simple, clear and focused like a laser beam on the benefits of the product or service. DRTV commercials that employ high-concept creative are entertaining, exciting and often award-winning. From a response point of view, however, they’re second-class and never seriously motivate consumers to part with their hard-earned dollars. In fact, they go to great lengths to convey the impression that they are not trying to convince you of anything and, as a result, they rarely do. To escape this death trap, make sure your DRTV creative is about “selling” – start to finish, no ifs, ands or buts.

4. Relying on Focus Groups and Research

Wouldn’t you like to base your creative decisions on solid, empirical data? Wouldn’t you like to know what consumers think about a TV commercial before you spend a small fortune producing and airing it? Of course you would. So would I. Unfortunately, you will never get that from a focus group or a research paper, unless that research is based on people’s actual buying activities. The reason is simple: what people say in a focus group or research setting and what they do in the privacy of their own home when spending real money are two vastly different things. Almost always, without fail, people in focus groups criticize DRTV commercials as being overly simplistic and praise brand commercials for being exciting, entertaining and engaging. But when the two commercials are side by side on TV, guess which one performs better? You got it! The DRTV commercial always delivers more sales, more customers and more brand loyalty than the brand spots. Why? Because consumers are always happy to tell you what they like or don’t like about a particular commercial, but that has very little to do with what makes them buy after viewing a TV commercial.

5. Doing It Differently

I have seen many highly intelligent people think they can produce a great DRTV spot while ignoring all the proven, time-tested DRTV techniques that DRTV spots have in common. And the more creative they are and the more success they have had at award shows, the more likely they are to think this way. Effective DRTV commercials have certain fundamental elements in common, including: benefit-driven copy, a clear, carefully articulated sales argument, repetition of key selling points, liberal use of graphics and a strong call to action.Don’t make the mistake of making a brand commercial, slapping a URL or 1- 800 number on it and thinking it will drive response. It won’t. But a well-crafted, well-shot, highly focused DRTV commercial will achieve all your objectives, including drive sales, push retail and build brand.
Avoid these five mistakes and you’ll be well on your way to creating the kind of high-octane DRTV campaign that your company will love – a campaign that builds your brand, drives sales and grows your business!

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