Direct Response

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Definition of Direct Response

A type of display ad campaign with very specific advertiser goals, such as the creation of a new account.

Direct Response in Depth

Direct response is one of the two primary types of display ad campaigns. Direct response campaigns typically promote a specific product or service, and have a very specific follow-up objective that advertisers want visitors to take after clicking on an ad. Direct response campaigns typically de-emphasize traditional metrics such as click-thru rate or cost-per-click and instead evaluate the success based on custom metrics such as cost-per-account.

The direct responses for which advertisers are looking may include:

  • Opening a new account / creating a new membership
  • Starting a free trial
  • Downloading a whitepaper or other document
  • Signing up for an upcoming event
  • Subscribing to a newsletter
  • Completing a survey / form

Branding campaigns, on the other hand, promote a company more generally and aim to raise awareness of the products and services offered. A branding campaign would be more concerned with maintaining a high share of voice and less concerned with the new accounts created or direct sales generated.

Direct Response Campaigns

Below is an example of a direct response campaign; Comcast is advertising its high speed internet services, with the goal of opening new accounts:

Example of a Direct Response Ad

In a direct response campaign, showing an ad to a visitor or getting that visitor to click on the ad are ultimately worthless. Comcast is not worried  about overall recognition of the company (in fact, the Comcast name doesn’t even appear) but is instead focusing on opening new accounts.

Visitors who click through on the ad but don’t set up an appointment or request more information are ultimately worthless. In a direct response campaign, the results are typically binary: either the desired response is taken by a visitor, or it isn’t.

Publishers & Direct Response

There are both positives and negatives to being considered for a direct response campaign. Many advertisers focusing on direct response have very challenging goals to meet. For example, Comcast may have a $100 cost-per-new account target, meaning that they are looking for sites who can directly contribute a new account for every $100 spent.

In many cases, these goals are very difficult to reach and most publishers will fail to perform well enough. That will often lead to the advertiser cutting the spend before the entire campaign has been completed.

However, if your site is able to consistently deliver results that help an advertiser achieve their direct response goals, you will likely see a recurring revenue stream in the form of future campaigns.

Direct response campaigns require some unique considerations not needed for branding efforts.

Direct response campaigns are essentially a tryout with a very quick fuse. If your site fails to perform, you’ll likely be cut and won’t be considered by the same advertiser for quite a while. As such, it is important to try to maximize advertiser value. Some strategies may include:

Even if you price aggressively and strive to deliver significant value, it is very possible that you’ll still see your spend cut and you won’t be able to keep the advertiser. Plenty of quality publishers aren’t able to be effective parts of direct response campaigns, especially if the advertiser has very aggressive conversion goals.

See Also

Related terms include: Branding.