DRTV: 11 Things you need to know about DRTV


A very important element of the ad is a memorable telephone number, which usually starts off with a 0800 prefix, suggesting that the call is free.

The telephone number may appear on the screen throughout the ad or in a wave-like pattern at the beginning, middle and end.

"I'm really not convinced that a web address would work for DRTV,

says Phillips. "We want an immediate reaction for the viewer to reach over and pick up the phone, not spend time having to switch the computer on. One thing we've learned is that giving the viewer too much choice lowers the response rate."

The NSPCC currently runs three DRTV ads in rotation entitled "Freeze Frame", "Open Your Eyes

and "Hospital Baby". Freeze Frame is the latest DRTV initiative from the NSPCC, which launched in October last year. It focuses on neglect and physical abuse in the form of three powerful true-life case histories. The 90-second ad is topped and tailed by 10-second bursts to boost the impact of the ad.

"Ads tire,

says Hunter. "In order to keep the activity working at the same level, you have to replace them to combat that 'creative tire'. But rather than totally dropping an ad, we expand its life expectancy by not making the ad do the whole job, so it's not on every spot we buy."

Holweger suggests that charities have to invest in their creative offering.

"You can't keep running the same ad forever as the response from it tends to tail off,

he says. "You need to refresh your DRTV campaign with new executions and that can be quite expensive."

Hunter is assuming that all three ads will tire with time. The charity is already developing new ads to replace them.

The majority of DRTV ads ask for a monthly donation, but some charities have been more innovative, such as The National Canine Defence League campaign which asks supporters to "sponsor a dog for as little as £1 a week".

And in February last year, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund moved DRTV forwards with the use of interactive TV to recruit donors. The 90-second commercial, which ran for four weeks, demonstrated how the fund's doctors and scientists work tirelessly to find new answers to cure cancer. The ad encouraged people to donate £2 a month by pressing a button on their interactive remote control, which led the viewer to an interactive area created for the charity.

Sue Ryder Care, which helps people with a wide range of disabilities and life-shortening diseases, is about to venture into interactive DRTV ads for the first time, as part of an integrated campaign in the autumn.

The charity hopes that the push will help to recruit its target of 100,000 committed donors by 2005.

6. When purchasing airtime, big audiences are seldom best

Paul Sumners, broadcast director at WWAV Rapp Collins Media, advises his clients to decide their potential target audience and place spots in a sympathetic environment.

"My job is to get the phone to ring,

says Sumners. "But I wouldn't advise a client to advertise in the middle of Coronation Street because the viewer is too involved. They're being entertained, so they're less likely to pick the phone up. You've got to go for low-viewing levels and low levels of interest.

Channels such as MTV are classed as "wallpaper", because even though people may be listening, they're not so glued to what's going on and therefore won't mind being interrupted. They're more likely to pick up the phone.

"Buy low-ranking spots, when it's cheap and when hardly anyone's watching TV,

says Wright. "You never buy peak slots as it wouldn't be cost effective, you just can't handle the calls."

7. If you can't take the calls, your efforts will be wasted

Very few ads appear on primetime slots, not because the charity thinks it will get a bad response but because they think a call centre will not be able to handle it.

"Sixty per cent of your calls are received in the three minutes following the ad. If people phone and it's engaged, it's not good. Taking calls and the fulfilment of calls have got to be really strong,

says Wright.

Sometimes if the phone lines are busy, an automated or recorded response will kick in, but it's a trade-off because fewer people will leave their details.

"In most cases you need to have more than one call handling agency to do the job as there's very few that can deal with large volumes of calls,

says Hunter. Real people answering the phones is essential, whereas automated machines might be good for one-off credit card donations."

8. The work doesn't stop when you put the phone down

Cancer Research UK uses Brann Direct for its inbound telemarketing activity and Pell & Bales for its outbound communications.

The inbound agency takes personal data from callers. However, if a caller doesn't want to commit to regular giving there and then, the call is treated as an enquiry.

This is where the outbound agency steps in. As well as cold calling, outbound agencies are hired to make a follow-up call on behalf of the charity. The call centre will attempt to turn the enquirer into a regular giver. The agency may even be used to call upon existing donors to see if they wish to increase their level of giving.

9. It doesn't have to cost the earth

According to Phillips, the average cost of producing an ad from scratch including filming and footage is around £70,000.

The cheaper option is to make an ad from existing footage that a charity may already have. "We've done this very successfully for both the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and Oxfam. The costs, in some cases, can be as low as £20,000 to £25,000,

says Phillips.

TV stations will sometimes offer a first-time charity advertiser a hefty discount, but a media agency will usually arrange this. "You might find on the production side you'll get big discounts. If media owners want to encourage you they will, so you buy more media, but it's very rare that you're going to get anything for free,

says Wright.

10. It's a long-term investment, not an overnight return

DRTV can be a cost-effective medium once you sign people up for regular giving. The return on investment can easily beat direct mail.

But Wright warns: "You have to allow a year for a return on your investment. Lots of trustees expect you to get the money back quickly but you'll break even in a year not a month.

"We know how much we want to spend and what return on investment we want to achieve, but we still want to try different channels, test new creative, try different times of day and refine and improve the response we get."

11. If you get all these things right, it works

The NSPCC's DRTV programme in the financial year from March 2001 to April 2002, acquired 60,000 new donors, the majority of which give on a regular basis.

A colossal 70 to 75 per cent of the new donors signed up to PDD. Around 20 per cent requested a direct debit pack to be sent to them, of which only half supplied and returned their details in the post.

Surprisingly only 5 to 10 per cent of the audience made a cash donation over the phone, proving that PDD was a winning formula on this occasion.

In the same period, the NSPCC's "Open Your Eyes

ad, the longest running of the three executions, produced a return on investment of 1.6, meaning that for every £1 spent on the creative, the charity received £1.60 in return.

"That may not sound great,

says Hunter. "However, you need to compare that with a cold mail campaign, where lots of charities will get around 80 to 90p back in the first 12 months. To be more than breaking even when you're recruiting new supporters, is a very healthy return."

Marie Curie's test campaign ran for two weeks in March to tie in with the charity's Daffodil Day, which commends the work of Marie Curie Cancer Nurses. The charity asked people to give £3 a month to help provide more care nurses.

Running on satellite and terrestrial TV, the campaign, which was also designed to raise awareness, resulted in money being pledged from more than 70 per cent of the calls taken, with 80 per cent of the calls made being successfully answered.

"The success of this ad goes far beyond its results,

says Sarah Tite, head of supporter development at Marie Curie. "The opportunities for people to see the ad and, therefore, hear about our work, cannot be underestimated."

The charity is considering running DRTV campaigns in the future.


The Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity created a 90-second DRTV ad using a combination of new and existing footage.

The charity's agency, WWAV Rapp Collins, filmed in the hospital with a small production crew of director/camera operator and sound technician, with the final production cost coming to around £80,000.

"The ad has a deliberate 'home-made' look about it which helped the cause. Of course, big brand charities are often prepared to spend more on production values because they also want to enhance the brand,

says Maria Phillips, creative director at WWAV.

The ad, entitled "Special", aimed to recruit new donors by asking them to send a cash gift or set up a £2 a month regular gift, and increase awareness of the hospital's work. It ran in daytime slots throughout December 2000, as well as three-week bursts during February, April and December 2001.


was created to target potential donors that were predominantly female, aged 55-plus, widowed or divorced, retired and with no children living at home. The audience's key lifestyle characteristics included the arts, the stock market, wildlife and gardening.

The charity received £19,000 worth of free airtime from a mixture of channels including Channel 5, MTV, VH-1 and UK Style. Teledynamics handled the calls. The campaign recruited 2,257 new donors and raised £116,844 over 12 months - a return on investment of 2.34.


The Waterways Trust, the charity that promotes and protects Britain's inland waterways, decided to test the DRTV medium at the end of February this year.

The ad, created by Whitewater, was fronted by ex-Blue Peter presenter John Noakes, and was filmed on location at Old Linslade, an inland waterway in Bedfordshire. It asked TV viewers for a gift of £3 a month in support of the charity's conservation work.

The charity aimed to show that canals are not just about "white, middle-class boaters", but rather that they offer a whole raft of economic and social benefits ranging from walking, cycling and canoeing, to pubs and museums.

The media was bought through Upward Brown and the ad aired on a mixture of broadly satellite channels including ITN News, Sky News, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic and Play UK.

"Testing direct response TV marks a significant expansion of our recruitment strategy,

explains Joanne Darlington, The Waterways Trust's direct marketing manager. "Through TV we're looking to reach the widest range of people interested in supporting our waterways conservation work."

The trust said the ad wasn't as cost-effective as a direct marketing campaign, but is considering using DRTV again.

Direct response TV ads can pluck at the heart and purse strings of viewers. But don't think that it's all easy money. Claire Sames gives a guide to what to think about before taking a campaign on air.

By giving £2 a month or as much as you can afford, you could help save lives. Please call this number now.

If you combine this appeal with moving images of human suffering and a memorable telephone number, the result is a direct response TV ad.

Direct response TV, or DRTV, is an effective way for many voluntary organisations to raise funds as it has the ability to get people to respond immediately with financial support.

Many of the larger charities have included DRTV in their fundraising toolkit since the early 90s, when ads asked for cash donations rather than recruiting committed givers. Early exponents of the technique included Oxfam, the pioneer of DRTV, the RSPCA and the NSPCC.

Maria Phillips, creative director at WWAV Rapp Collins, whose clients include three of the five biggest charity advertisers, says: "More charities want to test the medium because they see other charities using it and see it working for them. Fundraising is a competitive area - the direct mail marketplace is already saturated with charities and so more fundraisers want to try different media."

So what should you consider when planning a DRTV campaign? Here is the Third Sector guide:

1. There has never been a better time to try DRTV

Television advertising has not always been affordable for charities. However, since the rise in the number of 24-hour satellite and digital TV channels, the TV marketplace has fragmented and so has the audience.

This has reduced the cost of purchasing airtime, which has worked to the advantage of the "budget conscious

voluntary sector.

An increasing number of charities are jumping on the bandwagon to test the medium in a bid to recruit regular givers. They include Marie Curie Cancer Care, the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA),The Waterways Trust and Shelter.

The NSPCC first used DRTV 10 years ago. Tim Hunter, head of direct marketing, says: "DRTV is the most cost-effective way of attracting new supporters - it's more profitable than any other means of recruitment at the moment. Most recruitment activity is designed to break even, whereas we make a profit out of it."

The children's charity switched from cash donations to regular giving three years ago, due to the advent of Paperless Direct Debit (PDD), another major factor in why DRTV is on the increase. PDD allows supporters to give their bank details over the phone without having to fill in physical donation forms.

"PDD has really changed regular giving,

says Hunter. "Three years ago you had to send a pack to get people to fill in their bank details, now you can just send an acknowledgement letter."

Cancer Research UK launched its first DRTV campaign this spring, following the merger of Imperial Cancer Research Fund and the Cancer Research Campaign.

Before the merger, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund had used the platform for around four years.

The combined strategy kicked off in February with the ad "Mirrors". The creative features scenes of cancer victims and their families and asks for £2 a month to fund research.

Helen Wright, head of direct marketing at Cancer Research UK, says: "For DRTV, you need a good agency, strong creative and a clear call to action - if you want £2 a month, you've got to say it. More importantly you'll need a memorable phone number and a good call handling centre."

2. Not every ad with a phone number is a DRTV ad

Just because a TV ad carries a telephone number or web address, that doesn't necessarily mean it can be classified as direct response. Corporate advertising or awareness campaigns may also carry these mechanisms.

While a corporate ad aims to communicate a charity's brand identity, it allows the viewer to find out further information, often via a web site. An awareness campaign will usually offer a helpline number or online advice service.

DRTV stands out from the rest due to the fact that it asks for money. However, some may argue that DRTV could deliver all three possibilities.

3. DRTV will not work for everyone

DRTV could tick a lot of boxes for a charity, but not all charities are suitable for DRTV as a fundraising medium. It's a blunt instrument in terms of the audience it reaches. Charities that have a universal or generic appeal including cancer, famine, child or animal-related issues are more likely to be successful in triggering a response.

Phillips says: "We've found it harder to make the more specialist charities such as homelessness or disability work on DRTV. The more emotional rather than rational causes will always work well on TV. That's not to say it's impossible for other causes, but you'd need a particularly strong creative idea."

Wright agrees. "It tends to be the bigger charities that have mass appeal and a lot of money to invest in the medium. We have a very generic proposition - to cure cancer faster by spending money on research. We don't have a breast cancer ad or a children's cancer ad since we're saying to everybody that one in three people will be touched by cancer in their lifetime and at least 90 per cent of our supporters have been touched by it."

Karl Holweger, chief executive of telemarketing agency Pell & Bales, whose inbound clients include Marie Curie, says: "In order for DRTV to work, you need successful high-brand awareness. You need to be well known with a good fundraising product."

4. DRTV complements but doesn't replace other media

A good starting point for a charity is converting a strong cold direct mail pack by taking the proposition and applying it to TV.

DRTV can bring to life a message that has grown tired in a direct mail pack because it's an exciting visual medium.

"You can reach the kind of person who would never respond to direct mail or door drops - not because of the cause or the proposition - but because of its perception as junk mail,

says Phillips. "TV has more credibility."

DRTV tends to attract a more youthful audience than direct mail - around 40 plus compared with the usual 50-plus age group for direct mail. Although you can target an audience through specific channels and at different times of day, DRTV is not as finely targeted as direct mail.

However, you can quickly tell what level of response a DRTV campaign is receiving, often the next day, although reviews are usually made after one week. A direct mail programme, on the other hand, can take months of reviewing before you can assess the level of its success.

DRTV is a flexible medium since you can take an ad off air, make changes to it and get it back on air pretty swiftly, making it perfect for emergency appeals. In some cases, you can turn an ad around in a week.

5. Without the right creative, you don't stand a chance

Because DRTV is an immediate medium, the charity must have a great reason for the viewer to ring now.

"It's a combination of 'inspiration' and 'information',

says Phillips.

The information provides the framework of the ad and the inspiration is the emotional pull or the reason to pick up the phone now.

Effective ads usually have a high level of voice-over and captions to re-iterate the solution to a problem, which beefs up a charity's chances of persuading the viewer to help.

Phillips suggests that many charities fall into the trap of spending too much time demonstrating the problem and not enough time on the solution, which may be due to the time constraints of an ad. "We've found longer tends to work better,

says Phillips.

Hunter agrees, saying: "You need a longer ad to tell people what you want them to do and how they can do it. You have to explain the nature of the problem and how they can help solve it by making regular donations. Our testing over the years suggests in order to get a message across you need time to do it - anything less than 90 seconds is less effective."

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