The Challenge of a (Really) Short-Form Direct Response Ad

It’s challenging for direct response marketers to fit all of the key elements of a good direct response ad into the space of a Facebook ad, Instagram ad, or Twitter post.

It’s challenging for direct response marketers to fit all of the key elements of a good direct response ad into the space of a Facebook ad, Instagram ad, or Twitter post.

Students in my direct marketing class at Rutgers were tasked with finding direct response advertisements in different media and detailing what made the ads direct — as opposed to general awareness advertising. Things like targeting, personalization, call-to-action, specific offer, etc.

Because their media consumption is almost exclusively online — social media, SMS, YouTube, and sometimes email, it’s not surprising that their examples showed the limitations of the media they consume.

The unlimited palette of the traditional direct mail kit, where repetition could be used to hammer home benefits and stimulate response, is all but extinct for this target audience. Even the traditional short-form, 120-second commercial has given way to shorter YouTube pre-roll ads that can be skipped after 5 seconds. (Make sure you get your main benefit and CTA out quickly.)

The examples students provided came mostly from their Instagram or email accounts, and many were limited to a simple illustration of the product, a brief description, and a “Shop Now” button. Although one student did provide a link to a classic DR spot for Flex Seal that made me laugh out loud (that’s long-form for lol). Over the course of two

direct response ad example
Credit: Chuck McLeester

minutes, Flex Seal was described as liquid rubber in a can, handyman in a can, and last but not least, the Hoover Dam in a can. There were several demonstrations, including one where the bottom of a small boat was replaced with a screen door coated with Flex Seal — no leaks, at all. This tried-and-true formula for DRTV sales doesn’t work in 280 characters; although, the ability to embed video into a tweet can overcome that limitation. The content of this short-form broadcast ad might make an interesting series of Instagram ads, but it would take four to five different episodes to include all of the content and demonstrations.

Reaching a young audience with direct response advertising is challenging, but not impossible. The best example of incorporating all of the essential elements of good direct response was provided by a female student from her Instagram feed. All of the elements are there: targeting, benefits, offer, and call-to-action — Girls Night. Delivered.

Shout out to Amazon Prime.

Short Video vs. Long Video: The Results

The short video vs. long video results are in for our event promotion. After a few twists and turns in the road, we learned that six seconds may not be long enough to deliver what you need in your messaging. We also learned that there are advantages of using Vimeo over YouTube, and that engagement is different based on the style of video you choose to create. But when it comes down to if we’d conduct a short video clip test for this group again, the answer

The short video vs. long video results are in for our event promotion. After a few twists and turns in the road, we learned that six seconds may not be long enough to deliver what you need in your messaging. We also learned that there are advantages of using Vimeo over YouTube, and that engagement is different based on the style of video you choose to create. But when it comes down to if we’d conduct a short video clip test for this group again, the answer is that it’s not likely. But “not likely” may be more of a function of continuing to do something different to capture the interest of fans. It’s the “been there, done that” attitude, and what are we, the direct marketers, going to do next time to top this.

Our results suggest it was the meaty, long-form content videos that got the attention of patrons.

But that said, the short video clips attracted attention and engagement. The repetition of the short video clips likely conditioned the audience to become intrigued with the upcoming shows, resulting in higher conversion toward the show date as they paid more attention to the long-form videos released at the end of the campaign.

(If the video isn’t just above this line, click here to view it.)

In the words of blogger Seth Godin, “delivering your message in different ways, over time, not only increases retention and impact, but it gives you the chance to describe what you’re doing from several angles.”

In our video format mix to promote a performing arts organization’s shows, we produced a long-form behind-the-curtain video and a long-form music video. The behind-the-curtain video, like those we have used for past shows, resulted in double the views of individual short video clips. But in defense of the short video format, when views of the five video clips are combined, they are more than double that of the long-form video.

Other results we’ll share in today’s video include how our emailed patrons responded to a series of weekly messages. It became clear that fans like longer videos with more meaty content. That’s what generated the highest email open and clickthrough rate, and generated the best engagement on social media.

Because we know that video works, as evidenced by the 20 percent increase in ticket sales last Christmas, we will continue to use video as the central delivery vehicle for direct marketing of show tickets in the future for this organization.

All-in-all, it was a good test. As a direct marketer, you know that you must dig into the numbers and analyze results every step along the way to see if your tests work. You won’t always hit a home run. But sometimes you have to venture out of your comfort zone to discover what could be the next big marketing opportunity for you. Learn more in today’s video.