Direct response television (DRTV) is any television advertising that asks consumers to respond directly to the company — usually either by calling an 800 number or by visiting a web site. This is a form of direct response marketing.
There are two types of direct response television, short form and long form. Short form is any DRTV commercial that is two minutes or less in length. Long form direct response is any television commercial longer than two minutes. This was the accepted term for an infomercialfrom 1984 until "infomercial" came into vogue in 1988. The most common time period available for purchase as "long form" infomercial media is 28 minutes, 30 seconds in length. Long form is used for products that need to educate the consumer and create awareness, and typically have a higher price. A relatively small amount or media time may be purchased in lengths less than 30 minutes but more than 2 minutes. Five minutes is the most commonly available time of these lengths.
Direct response television campaigns are commonly managed by specialist Direct Response or DRTV agencies with a full range of strategic, creative, production, media, and campaign services. They may also be managed by media buying agencies who specialize in direct response. In either case, these agencies purchase remnant air time from media outlets such as broadcast stations and cable networks. As DRTV has gained presence outside of its start in the United States, local agencies have developed in many countries.
To qualify for the special media rates offered DRTV commercials, the advertising must ask the consumer to contact the advertiser directly by phone, by text message, or via the web. In the early days of DRTV, this was nearly always to purchase the product. Over time, a wide range of consumer actions have become used. And, many consumers watch the advertising, but choose to purchase at retail without ever contacting the company. Typically for every unit sold on TV, anywhere from 3 to as high as 15 units sold at retail depending on retail distribution.