Build Market Power with Branded Direct Response Television

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By Doug Garnett, President, Atomic Direct

Walk into nearly any store and you’ll find an end-aisle dedicated to “As Seen on TV” products: short-term products that fly off the shelf because they are promoted with direct response television (DRTV).

While these short term sales are impressive, marketers and retailers know better than to copy their “yell & sell” advertising. This creative style sometimes brings outstanding short-term sales, but it also creates a serious risk of damaging your long-term brand value.

Is there any way to utilize DRTV’s power without the downside? Absolutely. With a type of DRTV we call “branded DRTV”.

Today marketers use branded DRTV to drive new product (or service) success, brand expansion, and drive sales that put their products on mainstream shelves for the long-term. Savvy retailers use branded DRTV to drive store traffic, bring in new customers, and build store brands – all while increasing shopping basket size. 

My agency has used DRTV to drive these benefits for marketers like Rubbermaid and Briggs & Stratton; for retailers like Lowe’s Home Improvement; and even for ingredient brands like DuPont Teflon.

DRTV’s Power Source

To sort out how DRTV can build retail power for your brand or stores, it’s important to understand the fundamental capabilities it brings:

  • DRTV drives retail action. With solid retail distribution, you’ll see 7 to 20 units sold at retail for every one sold directly by phone or web. DRTV is no longer primarily about building a direct sales channel.
  • DRTV is more cost effective than other forms of TV media. It’s bought through lower rates that are given to commercials featuring offers for immediate action. How much lower? Typically 4 to 8 times less expensive.
  • DRTV drives action by advertising a product. After all, consumers buy products – not brands. By revealing what’s compelling about your product, DRTV drives immediate action at retail as well as through direct sales.
  • Branded DRTV builds strong brands. Product focus is exactly what makes branded DRTV so compelling for brand building. Consumers retain brand messages when they are meaningful – when they are connected to products. So when you use products to show brand values, you build brand while driving immediate sales impact. 

Two Quick Examples

Keep your eyes open and you’ll see DRTV used by credit card companies, insurance companies, retailers, manufacturers, phone companies — an entire range of Fortune 500 brands.

My agency recently completed our second season of advertising for Mission Athletecare. Mission has innovative cooling products that were featured in a branded DRTV campaign centered around their product and supported by A-list athlete endorsements (e.g. Serena Williams, Dwyane Wade, and fisherman Kevin VanDam). TV’s highly visual medium allowed us to reveal the secrets to the product – the hidden actions that make the product work. The result? Outstanding sales impact throughout the retail channel and brand growth throughout the entire Mission product line.

For another example, consider the work we’ve done for Kobalt Tools – the Lowe’s store brand. Our fifth season of DRTV driving Kobalt sales has just begun and these campaigns have been the primary media driving the brand. The result has been impressive. 

Since we began our DRTV work, Kobalt has seen outstanding growth that made it one of the Landor Associates “Brands to Watch” in Fortune Magazine for September 2012. This was quite a surprise as it put the store brand and tool brand Kobalt in good company including Apple, Facebook, Skype,, Vizio, Samsung, YouTube, Netflix, Keurig, and the USMC. 

Getting DRTV’s Power for Your Company

It’s truly stunning how much impact DRTV can bring brands and retailers. There are a couple of keys to getting that success. First, you must identify products to be featured in your DRTV advertising that build fresh, compelling consumer messages – messages that also showcase the best of your brand value.

As you get started, stay away from agencies that believe the only route to DRTV success is through the “yell & sell” style (there are a lot of these agencies out there). At the same time, watch out for traditional advertising agencies who respond to your inquiry with “we can do that”. Branded DRTV is a specialty and your success requires an agency skilled at brand response.

DRTV drives success far beyond the sexiest of new media options. And once you learn to put that power to work for your brand, you’ll discover new brand heights you never imagined possible.

Doug Garnett is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Atomic Direct, a consumer goods agency focused on building brand and driving retail with new products. Atomic also plays an important role in taking specialty products out to mass retail and using new products to build strength for existing brands. For more information, contact, call 503-296-6131 or visit





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