Understanding response rates by media channel is a vital component of marketing and media planning. If you know the response rates, media costs and likely conversion rates of each channel you are using, you can forecast the ROI of your planned activity – before you spend any budget. This helps to de-risk your marketing activity and optimise how budgets are deployed to maximise ROI.
Unfortunately, many marketing and media channels are planned, negotiated, delivered and evaluated in silos. This means it can be difficult to get a set of comparative response rates which allow you to forecast how well any one channel may work for your business or brand. If you can’t compere them side by side it’s difficult to optimise budget distribution – particularly for customer acquisition activity.
Guide to response rates by media communication channels
With over twenty years’ experience of planning, managing and evaluating campaigns across practically all mainstream media channels, I thought it would be useful to share the metrics that I use as standard response metrics. These are given as percentage response rates of the audience seeing the ad.
Note: These are the response rates I would expect to see based on my experience. They should be used as a guide and are not a guarantee. They are subject to the caveats listed below.
- Response rates are driven by a number of factors including the product, offer, the creative treatment and the audience selection (media). Ideally, you should work to the highest possible standard in each of these four areas. Compromise on any of these factors will reduce response rates.
- Most channels have sub-sets of response rates depending on how the channel is being used. For example, TV ads can be “brand awareness” ads, “brand response” ads or “direct response ads”. Each of these have different levels of responsiveness. Brand awareness ads which are designed to change attitudes rather than short term behaviour will not deliver a high response rate.
- You must factor in the cost of media on a per audience basis. A favourite mistake of response rate observers is to look at response rates without factoring in channel costs. Here’s an example; the response rate from DRTV is about 100 times lower than the response rate from DM, but remember, DM costs around 100 times more per person than TV. In reality, both channels may produce a similar cost per response. That’s why it’s important to look at both factors when analysing and forecasting responses.
- Response rates aren’t everything; what generates revenue is sales so you need to factor in a conversion rate from response to sale. As a general rule, personal channels like DM tend to convert at a higher rate than broadcast or online display. You can have a channel with a low response rate and high conversion rate performing as well in cost per sale terms as a channel with a high response rate and a low conversion rate.
- Marketing activity is subject to diminishing returns; response rates will fall as budgets increase.
We’re often asked to forecast or estimate campaign response rates, especially in DRTV. Here are some guidelines for those who want them:
Set 1 – DRTV Phone Response Rates (high to low range as a percentage of total impacts)
- DRTV Type 1 – Hard Hitters – these DRTV hard hitters, with no nonsense creative, usually on a 60 second time length can achieve between 1% and 0.05%. But please note, exceeding 0.05% is a very rare achievement in DRTV. It’s usually delivered through a combination of an extremely powerful ad, very strong product, with a great offer transmitted on a low level but highly responsive audience. It is very difficult to exceed 0.05% at scale.
- DRTV Type 2 – Lead Generators – these DRTV ads are usually seeking subscription trials, leads, quotes etc and run on time lengths between 30 seconds and 60 seconds. Response rates tend to be around 0.05% and 0.005%.
- DRTV Type 3 – Brand Response – these ‘BRTV’ soft sellers produce lower responses generally in the range of 0.005% to 0.0005%
Set 2 – DRTV Web Response Rates (high-low range as a percentage of total impacts)
- DRTV Type 1 – Hard Hitters – these are high response rate ads will generate 2-3 times their phone response equivalents so around 2% and 0.1%
- DRTV Type 2 – Lead Generators – web response rates to these tend to generate around 0.5% and 0.05%.
- DRTV Type 3 – Brand Response – these BRTV soft sellers produce lower responses generally in the range of 0.05% to 0.005%
Many advertisers are returning to Direct Response Television (DRTV). Whilst the goal today is to maximise web response as opposed to phone response, many of the rules of traditional DRTV remain constant. Here’s a summary of how to get the best from Direct Response TV:
- Remember all DRTV begins with the offer. Whilst issues around DRTV performance are often seen as “creative” or “media” we need to remember that the proposition to consumers is key to DRTV success. If you are offering free Ferraris you will not need to think in terms of creative or media optimisation. The offer will work. Equally, if you are offering a poorly differentiated product or service, you will find it difficult to sell. Your problems will be exacerbated further if you are in a mature market packed with established offers. So ask yourself the “so-what” question against every line of copy. If you wouldn’t buy it, no-one else will.
- Develop compelling DRTV creative. DRTV seeks behavioural change, and consumers need to be given good reasons to stop what they’re doing and do something else. You need to talk in terms of meaningful benefits. There are certain category rules that are helpful. If you’re selling a financial product don’t use jokes. For most people, talking about their hard-earned money is not a funny business. Concentrate on explaining what the product is different, what it offers that is new and why your target audience should find out more.
- Be careful with emotional sales messages. Most mainstream advertising seeks to build emotional connections between people and brands. For many brands this is the right approach, but if you want to sell off the screen, stick to promoting the benefits that make you different and giving good reasons to buy.
- Make sure the creative identifies your target audience. Everyone watches broadcast media. The trick to making DRTV work is to create a sense of identification between you and your target audience. Show people and situations that your target audience will identify with. Create the impression that your target audience belongs in the ad.
- Understand the economics of broadcast media. TV companies use every possible device to maximise the yield on the audience they are selling. Yield is the revenue generated by advertising over the cost of attracting that audience i.e. producing or buying the programming. High quality peak programming is expensive to produce or buy. More people are at home available to view during peak viewing times (5pm to 11pm) so audiences are higher. So TV companies put their highest cost, highest quality programming into the times of day when most people are available to view. Moreover, ad agencies want high reach, so there is high demand for high quality, high audience programming. All this makes peak airtime expensive both in terms of unit cost and capital cost. The premiums embedded in peak mean it sells at rates that rarely work for DRTV advertisers. But off-peak airtime is an entirely different matter….
- Unlock the benefits of off-peak airtime. Everybody watches off-peak TV; young, middle-age, old, affluent, less well off, single, married, students, working people and those who’re retired. People take holidays and have days off. But most importantly, the homemaker watches daytime TV and the homemaker is often the person who researches and makes financial plans. Daytime can be ideal for reaching family decision makers. Daytime can be ideal for reaching students and it can be ideal for reaching affluent grey markets. Off-peak is the place to test your product in DRTV.
- Test, measure and learn. DRTV is direct response marketing and the lifeblood of direct response is quantified planning and control. Using BARB data it is possible to match minute by minute audience data with your minute by minute click traffic. This allows advertisers to build a response database which matches TV audience with web response. Each spot can be defined by a number of planning variables that can be controlled: day of week, time of day, channel, proximity to previous spot, length of spot and creative execution. All these factors can be combined and used to optimise future DRTV media buys.