In his popular book, Hey Whipple Squeeze This, longtime ad man Luke Sullivan writes extensively about the need for advertisements these days to stand out amidst a crowded media landscape. Sullivan gives this uniquely-modern challenge a name: “cutting through the clutter.” And though it’s all too easy to resort to elaborate stunts to get ads to stand out to viewers, Sullivan posits that “the interesting part of an ad shouldn’t be a device that points to the sales message; it should be the sales message.”
To most, that direction seems crazy, maybe even archaic. We’ve truly been conditioned to digest advertising with the assumption that the sales pitch is the least important part of an ad. We want - sometimes even demand - it served up with plenty of flash! Pizazz! Hilarity! Talking babies! Otherwise it goes in one ear and right out the other.
But the strategy inherent to direct response TV (DRTV) is in lock-step with what Sullivan suggests; a direct response campaign is all about the sales pitch. It’s the jelly of the jelly donut (or the cream filling, if jelly isn’t your thing). If our target audience doesn’t understand anything about the product or why it’s exactly perfect for them, they’re not going to act - no matter how much entertaining fluff the spot offers. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how hard Joe Schmo laughs at your commercial if it doesn’t also give him an understanding of your product and, more importantly, the motivation to buy it.
All this doesn’t mean that DRTV is without a sense of humor or that DRTV doesn’t care about achieving that ideal mix of art and commerce – it does. But DRTV’s primary goal is to deliver the messaging that will make your brand successful. Consumers don’t always need to be thrilled by a new product proposition. Sometimes simplicity is enough to get the attention of potential buyers.
And let’s be honest, talking babies are only funny up to a certain point. Then they just get kind of creepy.
Stephanie Sidak is an Account Executive at A. Eicoff & Co., one of North America’s largest DRTV agencies.