January 18, 2024

Avoid costly mistakes in TV advertising. Know the difference between a brand commercial VS DRTV

Rupert Mason

TV advertising gets a lot of stick in today's digital landscape due to it's high expense and limited targeting. If you can afford the cost then make sure you avoid the following mistakes and understand what type of ad is right for your brand and it's current level of brand awareness. Generally speaking your message, the way you implement it and the action you want viewers to take, all depends on how much they already know about your brand and therefore, what stage of maturity you're at. That's not to say that legacy brands, which have been around for decades can't do a Direct Response ad based on a product offer, but in general they've established what they do and so now they're battling to explain how and why they do it best (perhaps it's reliability, quality or one of a zillion attributes), since they're competing on an eternal stage and by that I mean, brands that will outlive us.

For many brands, understanding how much they need to focus on a wider brand message VS a more specific product offering is a tough question to answer and hard to quantify without extensive studies and consumer testing. So, it's no secret that when it comes to TV production, businesses often grapple with the decision of whether to invest in Direct Response Television commercials (DRTV) or Brand focused commercials, or perhaps what percentage of each ingredients are needed to whip up a hybrid. They each serve a distinct purpose within your marketing objectives. In this article, we'll delve into the differences between DRTV and Brand commercials, shedding light on their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Understanding DRTV Commercials


DRTV, or Direct Response Television, commercials are crafted with the primary goal of prompting immediate audience action. These actions can include making a purchase, calling a toll-free number, or visiting a website. Think of your classic Oxfam as ad as an example. There's an element of guilt ridden urgency with a giant number calling for a donation - Not quite the same as your warm, fuzzy and whimsical John Lewis ad focused on distinguishing their brand personality. Or here's another example, like our clients in the fintech space, you might be broadcasting a direct message about your product benefits, like "save time by accessing accounting and invoicing all from your mobile" with a CTA "Download our App today" VS "we help businesses realise their future, today" with a CTA "Forward thinking for today's businesses". - Terrible example (yes) but hopefully you can see how one uses emotion, whereas one focuses on practicality. Brands can only afford to play the long game with a brand message once they've made enough sales from telling the world exactly what their product is. Only then can brands start to distinguish their offering and find true product market fit on the eternal stage.


  • Call-to-Action (CTA): DRTV commercials are known for their compelling and direct calls-to-action, urging viewers to act swiftly.
  • Offer-Centric: Emphasis is placed on a specific offer or promotion to drive quick conversions.
  • Shorter Duration: Typically, DRTV commercials are concise, aiming to convey the message efficiently within a short timeframe.

Strengths of DRTV Commercials

  1. Measurable Results: DRTV commercials allow for precise tracking of response rates, making it easier to gauge the success of the campaign.
  2. Immediate Impact: With a clear call-to-action, DRTV commercials can drive immediate responses and conversions.
  3. Cost-Effective: These commercials often focus on a specific offer, helping businesses optimize their marketing spend for tangible outcomes.

Weaknesses of DRTV Commercials

  1. Limited Branding: The immediate call-to-action focus may limit opportunities for brand-building and long-term awareness.
  2. Over-reliance on Offers: Constant emphasis on promotions may dilute the brand image over time.
  3. Sensitivity to Trends: DRTV success may hinge on the relevance of the offer, making campaigns sensitive to market trends.

Understanding Brand Commercials


Brand commercials, on the other hand, prioritise building and reinforcing a brand's identity and values. These commercials are designed to create long-lasting impressions and emotional connections with the audience, they're far less focused on instant gratification and more on the compound effects of seeing their brand in a certain light.


  • Storytelling: Brand commercials often employ storytelling techniques to evoke emotions and resonate with viewers.
  • Brand Messaging: The primary focus is on communicating the brand's values, personality, and unique selling propositions.
  • Extended Duration: Brand commercials may be longer, allowing for a more in-depth exploration of the brand narrative.

Strengths of Brand Commercials

  1. Brand Building: Brand commercials contribute significantly to long-term brand equity by creating a strong and memorable brand image.
  2. Emotional Connection: These commercials have the power to forge emotional connections with the audience, fostering loyalty.
  3. Versatility: Brand commercials provide flexibility for creative expression, enabling businesses to experiment with various storytelling formats.

Weaknesses of Brand Commercials

  1. Harder Measurement: Assessing the immediate impact and ROI of brand commercials can be challenging compared to DRTV commercials.
  2. Extended Production Time: Crafting compelling brand narratives may require more time and resources in the production phase.
  3. Higher Cost: The emphasis on production quality and emotional storytelling may result in higher production costs.


To maximise your ROI with a TV ad campaign, you need to understand the level of brand awareness your business has and therefore what viewers (potential customers) need to know about your brand. The choice between DRTV and Brand commercials depends on the marketing goals, budget constraints, and the desired impact. Balancing both approaches strategically can lead to a comprehensive and effective video marketing strategy. Whether aiming for immediate responses or long-term brand loyalty, businesses must align their video production efforts with their overarching marketing objectives.

Get in touch with us at Sidekick Studios if you'd like advice or support with your TV production.

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