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By Jim McNamara
Reprinted from Magazine

One of my clients put it this way--

In today’s economy, there are two kinds of smart advertisers:  those who are using infomercials,   and those that wish they were.


DRTV Is On the Rise

Indeed, an infomercial or direct response television (DRTV) has been a growing trend for more than 20 years and shows every sign of continuing.

More and more companies are discovering that it allows them to reduce the cost and risk associated with bringing new products to market, and then to improve the reach and effectiveness of their advertising once they are there.

DRTV Defined
The concept of DRTV is fairly simple. Obviously, it uses television, the world’s most powerful medium, with its ability to instantly reach millions with the unequaled impact of sound and moving images.

But it directs that power within the discipline of direct response, a century-old marketing strategy that doesn’t rely upon traditional retail stores and distributors to make sales.

Direct response ads are designed not to drive customers to stores but to make them respond immediately and directly to the advertisements themselves.

How DRTV is Better
How is DRTV different from traditional TV advertising?

Well, in regular TV advertising, you see short :30 messages that the advertiser hopes will make you notice, remember and think positively about his particular brand of beer, bank, cereal or what-have-you.

In a DRTV ad or infomercial, which is usually two to sixty times longer, you’d get all of that, plus a harder sales pitch, details on a specific offer, and the opportunity to “Order Now”!

Since 1984, the percentage of DRTV advertising on television has mushroomed.

Critics may say that this rise in infomercials has meant a decrease in the quality of television in general, but most marketers see it differently.

Quite simply, they believe DRTV has opened up the marketplace.

Studio audience show

Shooting on location

Drawbacks of Traditional Retail
To illustrate their point of view, consider the plight of an entrepreneur in the days before DRTV.

Even if he had truly invented the better mousetrap, he faced truly Herculean obstacles before he could effectively sell it.

First he’d have to finance and complete the manufacturing of, say, 50,000 units. Then he’d have to line up a network of distributors to warehouse and ship.

Next, he’d have to convince the buyers at a handful of retail giants to give (or even rent) him shelf space to try his product on what was essentially a consignment deal.

Part of this negotiation would often include the marketer promising to give the retailer co-op advertising money, or even run a multi-million dollar ad campaign.

The marketer would have to ship his product to hundreds of individual stores.

He’d have no control over where the product was displayed or how or if it was explained by clerks.

When his advertising ran, he’d have no idea if either his message or his media buying was effective. All he could do would be to hope.

If the product sold, the marketer would have to manufacture and ship more, which would mean another round of financing.

He’d be short of cash, you see, because he’d have to wait six to nine months before the retailers, distributors and other middlemen finished their accounting and actually sent the marketer his first actual payment.

If the product didn’t sell, our poor marketer would have to take all of it back. He’d even have to pay for the shipping.


Jim McNamara is a proven writer-producer for DRTV, internet, print, and interactive projects. He can be reached at or at 818-425-6441.

The DRTV Scenario
Here’s how our mousetrap entrepreneur would work the DRTV approach.

He’d produce some inventory all right, but nowhere near what he’d need for retail. Then, instead of approaching retail chains, he’d make and air an infomercial.

Behind the camera


Shooting a cookware infomercial

The commercial’s content would be totally under his control and it would demonstrate and explain his new product better than any store clerk or shelf card ever could, and it would include a price and toll-free number for ordering.

Working with a DRTV media buyer, the marketer would test his commercial on TV for, say, $20,000.

Within days, the marketer would know the results of his test, have the actual sales revenue in his bank and start shipping to customers.

He’d then expand his test, rolling yesterday’s profits over into tomorrow’s media buy, spending more and more, until he was finally in full-scale roll-out and spending $250,000 a week on TV and making about that in profits.

At that point, our mousetrap maker wouldn’t have to bother to call the retail chains. They’d be calling him.

At his new home in Hawaii.

What then, are the benefits of DRTV?

1) Lower investment
You can launch new products with a fraction of the time and capital traditionally required.

2) Lower risk
You can test creative, offer, price and media buys before you make major commitments.

3) Measurable
Every day, you can know exactly how effective your marketing, creative and media buys are.

4) Demo power
Nothing beats TV for its dramatic, persuasive impact. You show, tell and sell.

5) Direct 
Your best sales pitch is communicated to the buyer. Your message isn’t distorted or forgotten by reps and sales clerks.

6) Fast
Your ad spending pays off overnight. There’s no waiting for months while you build brand awareness.

7) Penetration
DRTV reaches everywhere there’s a TV set.

8) Longer
DRTV communications are not limited to 30 seconds. You can use a full-half hour to explain complex topics.

9) Branding
DRTV gets so much exposure, it not only creates sales but builds brand names.

10) Stretches media budgets 
DRTV spots produce profits which can be re-invested in the media buy.

11) Pay-as-you-go
You are able to finance tomorrow’s media buy with today’s sales dollars.

12) Show-and-tell
DRTV can explain new products and concepts in ways you can’t in retail stores.

13) Convenient
Your DRTV “store” is open 24/7 and only a phone call away for consumers.

14) Immediate
DRTV is easy to change and update, allowing you to get a timely message to consumers.

15) No markup
You receive the full retail price, since there are no distributors or retailers to pay.

16) Retail ready
DRTV can be your launching pad into retail. Stores want products their customers see on TV.



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