The Ultimate Guide To Direct Response Advertising

Welcome to the first of our Direct Response Advertising blog series! In this first blog, we’ll cover some of the basics of direct response advertising (aka, DR) - starting with what it is and the most common questions we’ve seen. Then we’ll dive into some best practices and tips to help you succeed with direct response advertising.


What is Direct Response Advertising?

Where traditional advertising, or Brand Advertising, focuses more so on brand awareness—familiarizing and connecting users with your brand before they make a purchase—Direct Response Advertising is all about getting users to take your desired action NOW—whether they’ve heard of your brand before or not.


Who is Direct Response Advertising good for?

Direct response advertising is obviously great for direct to consumer or ecommerce brands who sell products directly to customers. But, DR advertising can also work well for many other types of businesses that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. Here are some other examples:

  • Smaller business with stricter budgets 
  • Businesses looking to generate leads that eventually turn into customers 
  • Brands looking to build their email list
  • Brands looking to get people to register for a webinar or event

Essentially, if you’re a business with a goal to get users to take any type of specific action, direct response advertising is for you.

Where big name brands can pay the big bucks to show a heart-warming video during the Super Bowl with adorable puppies running around just to get their logo in front of as many eyes as possible - that’s not a luxury for the vast majority of businesses. Direct response advertising gives advertisers total control over the money they spend, and allows them to accurately measure the actual results that come directly from that money.


How do you get users to make a purchase or take a specific action when they don’t even know your brand? 

This is the question we’re going to cover in depth with the remainder of this blog. Luckily, social media platforms have created the ideal environment for advertisers to take advantage of direct response advertising. These platforms allow brands to reach their ideal audience, capitalize on driving sales or generating leads, and measure the return on their efforts to maintain profitability. 

Here are some best practices to follow in order to succeed with direct response advertising:

1. Goals, Objectives, and KPIs

First things first - you need to get clear on your goals and set realistic KPIs. Are you trying to drive sales of your products or collect sign ups for leads? How much are you willing to pay to acquire a customer? What is the average order value of your products or life-time value of your leads? These are the types of questions you need to hone in on before getting started. Knowing these values from the get go will give you a solid starting point and keep you on track as you start to optimize your campaigns to align with the overall goals of your business.


2. A+ Targeting

This might seem obvious, but make sure you’re hitting the right people. No matter how enticing your ads are, people who aren’t interested or don’t need your product or service won’t take your desired action. This piece is important to get right - otherwise you risk wasting money! Conduct research on your customers to help guide your targeting efforts. 

  • Where do your customers live? 
  • What age groups are most prominent or most valuable? 
  • Are they mostly a specific gender or is the product for anyone? 
  • Are there specific interests that are known to be common among the majority of your customers?

TIP: Knowing this information about your target audience can also help guide ad creation and copy that speaks to those specific users. This makes for a more tailored, relevant, and personalized user experience.

Obviously, not every individual in your target audience is going to convert on the first touch - even if they are very interested in your offer. That’s why it’s extremely important to make sure you capture those people, retarget them with new messaging to remind them of what they’re missing, and guide them down the funnel to convert.

Always be sure to exclude purchasers from your campaigns to avoid wasting money on people who have already taken action.

TIP: If you can, retargeting is the perfect opportunity to introduce some type of offer. People LOVE deals - a lot of times, even something as simple as free shipping or a discount code for a small percentage off is enough to nudge those who have shown interest, but are on the fence, to finally convert. You can get creative here and test different offers that increase conversion rate as well as increase your average order value - win, win!


3. Creative is King 

Creative is arguably the most important piece of direct response advertising on social media platforms; it’s the bait that hooks the user. Even if your targeting is on point, but the ad creative is mundane, you risk your ideal customer scrolling right past your ad if it doesn’t spark their attention. Here are a few things to keep in mind with creative: 

  • Make it unique and attention grabbing - If it doesn’t get users to stop scrolling, you’re losing out on potential customers. 
  • Spark their curiosity - You don’t want to give it all away. Give enough information to interest users, but leave them wanting more information in order to draw them to your landing page. 
  • Creative should accurately and clearly represent your product or service - This way users know what to expect when they click to the landing page, instead of bouncing right away because they had different expectations. 
  • Testing is key! It’s important to constantly be testing new variations and angles of ad creative, as well as different ad types that are available as options (static images, slide shows, videos, gifs, carousels, dynamic ads, etc.). 

For more tips on creating scroll-stopping creative for social media ad campaigns, check out this post on our blog!


4. Copy that Creates Curiosity

With ad copy, it’s important to speak to your target audience’s needs and how your product or service will ultimately benefit them. Once you grab their attention with stellar creative, the copy is where you’ll capture their curiosity. This is where you’ll provide the initial information needed to entice users to want to click to the landing page to learn more. Some basic best practices to follow with ad copywriting are:

  • Include a powerful, engaging headline
  • Address problems or pain points your audience may have
  • Describe how your product or service provides a solution
  • Highlight key benefits & features that differentiates your product or service
  • Ask a question or use language that relates directly to the user
  • Include a call to action (see next topic).

We’re going to dive much deeper into ad copy tips and best practices in the next blog post as well, so keep an eye out!


5. Strong CTA (Call to Action)

A direct response ad wouldn’t be “direct response” without a clear and compelling CTA. This is where you tell users exactly what action you want them to take. Don’t assume people know what you want them to do - if you want them to buy your products, tell them to “shop now”. If you want them to fill out a form or register for an event, tell them to “sign up today!”. Whatever your ultimate goal is, make sure it’s crystal clear to users (they’re not all as smart as you’d assume). It’s also important to make sure your CTA aligns with the action you want your audience to take on your website. This will help prequalify users as well as let them know what to expect.

TIP: Add a sense of urgency to your CTA to entice them even more and get them to take action NOW, before they miss their opportunity. Ex: “Limited Time Only”, “While Supplies Last”, “Before Offer Expires”.


6. Landing Page that Converts

Your ads can only do so much - they grab the attention of your audience and entice them to click through to your landing page or website. From there, it’s the landing page or website that is responsible for pulling them all the way down the funnel to convert. There are many optimizations you can make to your landing pages to help increase conversion rate - this is another place you should always be keeping in mind and testing new strategies to hopefully improve results.


7. Analyze + Optimize

This piece is extremely important - data doesn’t lie. As you spend money and test, be sure you’re analyzing the data that is provided to you. You may have a “feeling” that one audience or creative type does best for your business, but you don’t truly know until you see the data behind it. And a lot of times, what you think is best isn’t always what truly performs the best. That’s why it’s crucial to analyze your data on a consistent basis and use those findings for making decisions on how, where, and when to optimize your campaigns. Listen to the data, build off wins, continue to test, and repeat. 


8. Customers Are Your Friend

Once you do the hard work and earn your customers by convincing them to convert once, don’t stop there and forget about those valuable customers! As we mentioned in the targeting section, it’s important to exclude purchasers from campaigns to avoid wasting money by showing them a product or service they’ve already purchased. But, that doesn’t mean we should totally neglect them!

Those customers are familiar with your brand, have already done their research, and made the decision to purchase from you - so the hard work is done. If you have other products or services, you can take advantage of recent customers by cross-selling or up-selling additional products to them! We have seen this strategy work exceptionally well and result in CPAs drastically more efficient than prospecting or retargeting campaigns, and with a higher return.



This is a piece that often is left out of the picture. Don’t forget to monitor the comments on your ads (if the platform or placement allows comments)! A lot of users will ask questions about the product or service directly in the comments of the ad. If you have the resources to respond and provide more information to answer these questions, that is extremely beneficial. If one user has a question about the product, chances are more users will have that same question. If the answer is right in front of them in the comments section, it results in less research time needed before they make their decision to purchase.

Other than providing helpful information on your products, responding to comments as the brand also adds credibility, helps assure users your brand is legit, and builds trust. Another benefit is, in Facebook’s eyes, the more engagement the better. More engagement on an ad helps increase the “estimated action rate” that Facebook’s algorithm uses to determine how often and when to show your ad in the auction.

Note: this does NOT mean engagement bait or click bait - Facebook’s algorithm will know the difference.

TIP: There are also a lot of trolls on Facebook that will post negative or inappropriate comments on ads - it’s also a good idea to monitor these comments and evaluate if you would like to “hide” anything that could be inappropriate or offensive.



That’s a wrap for the first blog of our Direct Response Advertising series! If you found these best practices and tips helpful, keep an eye out for the next blogs of the series where we’ll be diving deeper into direct response creative and copy best practices, optimization strategies, and more. You can also contact us to connect with our team of Paid Ad experts!


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