Direct response TV vs brand response TV – what’s the difference?

  • Author HappyHour
  • Category Blog, DRTV
  • Published

Direct response TV and brand response TV continue to dominate the TV advertising landscape. Despite this, the line between these two forms of TV advertising can be blurry and shifts depending on who you ask, so we decided to put together a quick guide on how we (as a leading response TV agency) distinguish between direct response and brand response.

What is direct response TV?

Direct response TV is a style of TV advertising that prioritises getting an audience to take a specific action. Historically, this would mean putting a product in a trolley, calling a phone number or visiting a store, but in today’s world it also includes visiting a website, buying a product online or requesting a quote.

Advertisers use direct response TV to drive short-to-medium term ROI, often in support of a particular promotion, new product or a website relaunch.

A successful direct response TV advertising campaign should drive sales, quotes, website traffic – in other words, actions and engagements with a directly measurable impact on the bottom line.

What is brand response TV?

Advertisers use brand response TV when they want to create top of mind awareness and familiarity, whilst still generating some measurable activity and sales.

Unlike direct response TV, brand response TV balances driving specific actions with building long-term brand engagement, and creating an emotional response too.

Brand response TV has become more popular in recent decades, perhaps even supplanting ‘pure’ brand TV advertising. Theories abound as to why this is (a topic for another article), but our hunch is that it’s partly thanks to the shift in marketing culture towards more measurable advertising.

The effects of brand TV on revenue can be tricky to monitor, whereas brand response TV gives that immediate boost to sales figures whilst still supporting long-term positioning and awareness.

In a sense, you could therefore conceptualise brand response TV as sitting in the space between direct response TV and pure brand TV advertising.

The key differences between direct response TV and brand response TV

As we’ve alluded to already, the main difference between direct response TV and brand response TV is prioritisation – direct response TV wants to maximise leads and short-to-medium term ROI, whilst brand response seeks to balance that need with brand-building and emotional engagement.

Or, to look at it another way, if you’re familiar with the concepts of above the line (ATL), through the line (TTL) and below the line (BTL) marketing, direct response TV is very much in the BTL camp, whilst brand response TV usually falls under the TTL category.

This affects the creative techniques used by each form of advertising, as well as the frequency, size and timing of calls to action. For example:

  • Direct response TV adverts often lean heavily on product features and benefits, educating the audience regarding the product itself, whilst brand response TV adverts might be more narrative-driven and focus on the situation and reactions of the characters.
  • On-screen graphics featuring calls to action might be present throughout a direct response TV advert, whilst in a brand response TV advert they tend to be minimal throughout, or might only appear at the end of the spot.
  • Direct response TV adverts might provide multiple response channels (call, visit online or instore) where appropriate, whilst a brand response TV advert might only offer one.

Should you choose direct response TV or brand response?

Whether you should choose direct response or brand response depends on the goal of your campaign, where your brand or product sits in its category, and the role of TV in your marketing mix. Do you want an immediate boost to sales, or are you looking to build longer term awareness whilst also driving sales?

As an experienced response TV agency, we’ve helped emerging brands and market leaders alike make the most of TV. Our recommendations will differ depending on where your brand is in its journey, the existing consumer awareness for your brand, and amount of education required to help provide compelling reasons for purchasing the product or service.

For many first time TV advertisers, we often recommend direct response TV – again because it provides more reliable proof of concept for TV as a marketing channel. TV advertising is a big investment even for large companies and marketers are increasingly being asked to justify spend with yearly or quarterly sales and conversion data.

Philosophically, we’d also suggest that getting customers to buy products and enjoy using them is itself a good form of brand-building!

That isn’t to say that we’re anti-brand response TV though – we’ve made plenty of pure brand campaigns over the years. For many established advertisers, moving the brand awareness needle directly increases sales. Brand response TV can be the perfect mix of brand awareness and measurably driving new customer acquisition.

Brand response TV is also often the natural progression when direct response TV eventually reaches the point of diminishing returns. For example, when your audience starts to experience advertising fatigue, a brand response TV campaign might be the right approach to maintain awareness and support conversion activity, whilst giving your customers a rest from the ‘hard sell’ and getting them to think about your brand in a different way.

I want to run a response TV campaign, can Happy Hour help?

Of course! Happy Hour is a response TV agency with 18+ years of experience in the industry, and is one of the leading response TV creative agencies in the UK. So, if you’re looking for help with your response advertising, we’d love to chat. You can get in touch via our contact form, email us on or find out more about our direct response TV offering.

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