What Is Direct Response Advertising?

Direct response advertising is paid communication with the intent of driving immediate traffic or sales. This strategy contrasts brand building, with the primary difference being a goal of increasing business activity in the short-term as opposed to developing a brand in the long-term.

A direct response ad has an immediate call to action, often including phrases such as, "Buy now," "Call right away," "Fill out this form," or "Limited time only." A coupon mailer is one tactic for direct response. To use it, a company presents a product or service message along with a coupon that a buyer fills out and mails in. The coupon may include a limited-time promotional gift with a regular purchase. Another common tactic is the inclusion of a 1-800 number and an inducement to buy before a deadline to receive a discount or gift.

In addition to driving immediate sales, companies often like that direct response results are easy to measure. With a coupon, for instance, the business tracks the percentage of coupons redeemed relative to total distribution. Most sales promotion messages are a form of direct response advertising. Direct response may also target a niche group of customers with a special offer based on their unique circumstances or needs.