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4 things to know about: Performance Television Creative

One of the joys of the creative process is that it's so wide open; there are as many different methods of channeling creativity as there are creative people. In the business of advertising, however, while the process is important, it's the output that gets all the attention. There are marketing objectives to meet. Mandatory messages to incorporate. Communication tracking goals to deal with. And so on.

When it comes to Performance Television and Direct Response Television (DRTV), the metrics just get more challenging. Clients expect to see tangible results, in the form of phone or web activity, qualified leads, sales, etc., and they expect to see them, like yesterday.

With this kind of accountability, Performance Television creative has to meet different standards. Here are four key considerations for successful results.

1. Identify the audience. Any good advertising embraces a well-defined target audience. Given that the goal of DRTV isn't to entertain, but to inform and educate (not to mention motivate), signaling the audience right out of the gate - essentially letting viewers know who we're talking to - helps insure they'll stick around. In some cases this can be a simple, direct statement, especially if there are qualifying characteristics, like being Medicare age or part of a very specific group. You can also identify viewers who fall into a relevant interest group, like foodies or video game enthusiasts.

2. Communicate with Clarity. This is an exceedingly simple concept that's surprisingly hard to execute: clear communication of specific benefits and features. Writers: resist the temptation to show off your poetic chops and/or your extensive vocabulary. Art Directors: make sure visuals support the strategy. Clients: make sure everything you're mandating for the copy comes from a consumer perspective. Even if you've spent years and a bunch of money to develop some kind of space-age ingredient or cool technology, if it doesn't matter to the consumer, don't put it in your commercial.

3. Create Value. Great brand advertising generates a strong emotional connection with its audience. This alone, however, doesn't lend itself to inciting consumers to take action. Performance Television is charged with motivating the viewer to do something - call, go online, text for more information, watch a demonstration video - and the sooner, the better. At some point, you're going to ask your viewer to take some of her valuable time to respond to your ad. There has to be enough value in what you're offering to make it worth her while. This means a little less character/plot, and a little more (okay, a lot more) substance. Remember: it's one thing to get someone to feel something. It's another thing to get someone to do something.

4. Sell...but never at the expense of the brand. Sometimes it seems like everyone's forgotten the reason advertising was invented: to sell something. Effective Performance Television is not shy about selling. Importantly, this doesn't mean yelling, schilling or wheedling. It means providing substantive information to the prospective consumer, and then clearly asking them to consider closing the deal - all without compromising the valuable equities of the brand. (Anyone who tells you a key pillar of their brand character is that "it doesn't sell," might be trying to sell you something else altogether.)

Four considerations to keep in mind as you think about an investment in Performance Television. The beauty is, these are not prescriptive rules, but rather criteria for success. Work with a team who has done this before. Because as straightforward as it seems, there is an art to it.

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