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When is DRTV right for your small business?

Nina Hendy
Smarter Writer

Nina Hendy is an Australian business journalist writing about marketing, entrepreneurs, startups, money and finance

Nina Hendy
Smarter Writer

Nina Hendy is an Australian business journalist writing about marketing, entrepreneurs, startups, money and finance

Direct response TV has come a long way since those yell and sell spots we remember from years gone by.

Direct response television (DRTV) has formed the backbone of marketing strategies for countless brands over the years.

We’ve all seen them, but this style of marketing refers to any television advertising that asks viewers to respond directly to the company – usually by calling a hotline during the commercial, or sometimes by visiting the website.

Traditionally, DRTV works particularly well if your business needs to demonstrate products that improve quality of life in fitness, personal care, health, cosmetics, supplements and household products. Many break-through products have had incredible overnight success by choosing DRTV as their primary marketing medium, such as the Nutribullet.

remote pointing at television

What is DRTV?

For those not familiar with DRTV, there are two types of direct response advertising; short form and long form. Short form is less than two minutes, while long form commercials can be as long as 28 minutes, which is most commonly used for products to educate the consumer and create awareness.

To qualify for the special “mates rates” offered for DRTV commercials, the advertising usually asks the viewer to contact the advertiser directly by phone, text message or head online.

The secret though, is that many consumers watch the advertising but choose to purchase at a retail outlet without ever contacting the company directly.

And the method has been used by household names for years: Foxtel, insurance brands and smaller players such as Eternal Cosmeceuticals and Mirenesse have all built their brands and sales on the back of strong DRTV campaigns.

Mirenesse uses DRTV to show viewers before and after shots of happy product users.

“It’s very effective when you’re starting out and don’t have the advertising budgets. Our products deliver the results we promise, and our customer loyalty is very high,” company director Irene Patsalides says.

“It’s a great medium for small businesses starting out, but it won’t grow your business to where you want it to go alone. The station wants to be in absolute control and they can be very domineering, so if you like to swim free with the dolphins, beware of the sharks, and enjoy the surf, but eventually you will want your own island,” she says.

A TV sales pitch

Jodie Sangster is the CEO of the Association of Data Driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA).

She says that DRTV can be a highly effective form of marketing, though can be a little on the expensive side so needs to be used strategically.

“It can also be a fabulous form of marketing for certain products and services that have a lot of features that need explaining before you’re able to secure the sale, which is where we tend to see it used most,” Sangster says.

The art of DRTV

Creating valuable direct response television advertising is an art, Sangster says.

“Be very clear about the benefits or features you’re going to promote, rather than trying to get everything said. You’ll have far greater success if you pick three things you stand for and drive them home.”

Small businesses also need to be in a position to deliver on their promise.

“If you think it’s right for you, don’t have just one or two phone lines operating because you can have a far higher response than you bargained for.”

Sangster also recommends that small business owners take the time and spend the money on working with an agency that specialises in creating DRTV.

“A specialist agency will understand the formula that’s needed to construct DRTV in a way that will drive consumers to respond.”


  1. My product is high value, and requires a long sell to communicate
  2. I can represent the benefits of my product with a compelling visual
  3. I have the infrastructure to handle large spikes in enquiries


  1. I’m just starting out and want to advertise
  2. My product is inexpensive, and I need to move thousands of units to turn a profit
  3. I don’t have people dedicated to the phones
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Telstra has provided you with access to a range of articles and information which may be of interest to you and your business. The content of our articles does not constitute the provision of financial or taxation advice, and we strongly encourage you to seek independent professional advice or consider for yourself if this information is appropriate for you and your circumstances.

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