There are two primary types of online advertising: brand advertising and direct response advertising. Brand advertising is intended to make your prospects aware of your company so it stays top-of-mind when it comes time to make a purchase. Conversely, direct response is about getting results now.
Today’s article will begin by addressing two questions — what is direct response advertising, and what is a direct response ad? Then, we’ll discuss how to use direct response ads in campaigns.
What is direct response advertising?
Direct response advertising is meant to compel people to take an immediate action from an ad while offering a measurable response from that action. These campaigns use direct response ads, like the AdWords examples below, to capture prospects’ attention and lead them to the next page where they can complete the desired action:
Display ads can also request immediate action (in this case, getting a demo):
The reason for that is simple.
Direct response advertising is primarily interested in generating conversions
Keep in mind, the primary purpose is to elicit a specific, immediate action (aka a “direct response”). This action could be to download a resource, sign up for an account or free trial, schedule a demo, or even make a purchase.
Regardless of the action, this ultimately means a conversion — and conversions happen on landing pages.
What makes a direct response ad?
Just like landing pages have primary characteristics, so do direct response ads. Here are some of the main characteristics and best practices to follow.
Measurability and trackability
An effective advertising campaign always begins with a set goal — a clear, specific definition of what exactly you’re trying to achieve, and the KPIs you’ll use to measure your success.
You’ll want to measure exactly how successful each ad is (how many conversions you’ve generated from each one), and track where the conversions came from (what channel was responsible for generating the response). This way, you can A/B test or remove the ads that aren’t providing a favorable ROI.
A personalized offer delivered through a compelling message
Brand marketing tends to have a broad, one-size-fits-all message that’s focused on the brand, whereas direct response marketing is aimed more closely at targeted prospects and their specific problem or interest.
Searching for “email nurturing product demo” shows these ads at the top of page one. Notice how both encourage search users to take immediate action and each demonstrates unique benefits (“create and send in 5 minutes” and “email marketing made simple”):
This Old Dominion University ad makes it very obvious who they want to convert — somebody who wants to work in healthcare, needs affordable classes, and is looking to start this fall:
A demand for a response with a means to collect information
This one can’t be stressed enough. A direct response ad should always demand an immediate response with a clear call-to-action that compels the prospect to take action now. That’s why you need a dedicated lead capture page for each campaign.
When the prospect responds via the landing page lead capture form, it’s important to collect enough contact information to continue nurturing them through your sales funnel. But, to reduce friction, only demand what’s appropriate at that stage of the funnel:
Advantages of direct response advertising
There are several significant advantages to using direct response advertising.
Creating a direct line of communication with prospects
In contrast to brand advertising which uses more broad targeting to build brand awareness, direct response advertising is highly personalized, conveying specific information about how the product or service can help the prospect. This level of personalization enables prospects to feel more comfortable and connected to the brand and the offer, inviting them to communicate with the company openly.
Providing a great return on investment
Although brand advertising can be extremely effective, it’s also costly and time-consuming to pull off successfully. While this isn’t an issue for major brands with limitless advertising budgets, it’s not as easy for smaller businesses with fewer means. The few times they run their brand ad is nowhere near enough to compete with those other large brands, and the result is being drowned out and producing little to no ROI.
On the other hand, direct response marketing can be useful regardless of your budget. As long as you’re paying for clicks, you stand an equal chance of generating a high ROI.
Producing easily trackable and measurable results
By tracking how many conversions you’ve generated from each ad campaign, and where those conversions originated, you can measure the overall success of each ad. Then, change or remove any ads that aren’t producing positive ROI.
Building and strengthening real relationships with customers
Communication isn’t just used at the start of the buyer’s journey; it’s used throughout their entire journey to improve the purchasing experience, so it makes sense that building and strengthening relationships is possible.
Direct response advertising examples
With the basics and benefits covered, let’s review some of the best direct response ads.
This ActiveCampaign PPC search ad does all the right things:
The headline and copy deliver a specific offer with a compelling message (“free”). Both are also action-oriented, demanding an immediate response on this landing page:
This Iterable direct response ad displayed on YouTube conveyed a specific offer with personalized copy, and demands an immediate response from users (“request a demo”). Not only that, the white banner ad contrasts with the video and the orange CTA button pops off the ad drawing attention. It then takes prospects to this direct response landing page to collect the user’s information:
Microsoft’s Facebook image ad is specific (“for Sales & LinkedIn Sales Navigator”), is action-oriented (“Schedule”), and promotes the “free” demo:
Once clicked, prospects see this demo landing page:
Note: The Instapage digital ad specs reference guide contains everything you need in one place — dimensions, file formats, examples, and more — to create each of these ad formats across all platforms and devices.
Turn your ads into lead generating tools
With direct response advertising, your ads become great lead generation assets, rather than name recognition only. They inherently encourage immediate action, which makes them ideal partners with landing pages.
To create perfectly-optimized ads, refer to the Instapage reference guide for the most up to date ad specs and targeting options. Then, complete your campaigns by providing an optimal post-click experience from ad to landing page with the most robust post-click optimization platform.