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Are toll-free numbers the best for DRTV?

Jessica Randazza?, manager of brand experience at Digitas, and AJ Khubani, president and CEO of TeleBrands Corp., discuss whether toll-free numbers are the best for direct response TV (DRTV).


Jessica Randazza
Manager of brand experience at Digitas, five years of marketing industry experience


It is sometimes a challenge to keep DRTV top of mind when working in a digital communications environment. For some members of the industry, it seems like an antiquated practice of the “Mad Men” days gone by. But for some of our clients, their “go-to-market” sales models beg for broad-reaching tactics, like that of DRTV. ?

Beginning nearly 40 years ago, DRTV was created on proven direct response principles, with benefit-driven copy offering the viewer a quick solution to a problem. With an average of 2.24 TVs per household in the U.S., it’s hard for marketers to deny the scalability of this medium. ?

While results for DRTV certainly vary depending on program, product or service and call-to-action, toll-free numbers have proven to be the most turn-key way to drive results for our clients reaching out to a national audience, because of the lower bar to entry (telephone versus the Web). Nearly 99% of all homes in the U.S. have access to a telephone, whether landline or mobile. While broadband and Internet use have skyrocketed nationwide this year, 23% of the U.S. population does not have a home connection, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau. That makes the phone call-to-action more accessible to the broad audience that DRTV reaches.?

For DRTV, a turn-key solution to pick up the phone and call turns passive audiences and watchers into doers. It helps brands find customers they may not have been able to reach otherwise, leading them to a potential prospect. We’ve found tremendous success for our clients that use the toll-free DRTV approach as a marketing strategy. While digital is definitely key to their integrated campaigns as a whole, the toll-free DRTV approach has opened up their product and services to a wider audience by tapping into rural areas of the country with lower Internet use. That said, we can’t ignore the rapid adoption of multi-screen viewing on tablets and smart TVs, which means the DRTV landscape may change soon. ?

Ultimately, whatever your brand, it’s important not to discriminate against any form of marketing just because it’s been around a while. If it’s an area where your brand can successfully engage its consumers — like toll-free numbers do for some — then you owe it to your clients to give them that strategy.


AJ Khubani
President and CEO of TeleBrands Corp., nearly three decades of experience in DRTV



When TeleBrands Corp. first began doing business in the early 1980s, all orders came through the mail. By the end of the decade and leading into the early 1990s, most of our orders resulted from the use of toll-free numbers. Fast forward to today, and we see that most of our “As Seen on TV” orders are made through our websites (70% in fact). We attribute this trend to the growing use of technology and the ever-growing need for consumer instant gratification. ?

Technology provides us with alternative ways to promote and sell our product line. With the advent of smartphones, tablets and, of course, computers, consumers are more tech-savvy than ever before, and we need to respond to this growing trend. With a simple click on his or her smartphone or tablet, today’s consumer can purchase products anywhere and at any time. ?

With this in mind, we’ve invested time in the design of our ?websites. We want to make sure that the product is showcased in the way consumers expect, whether it’s through video, pictures or a simple product description. Consumers make the decision as to whether to purchase a product quickly, so we need to get our ?message out quickly. ?

Therefore, it is important to identify the product attributes and highlight why this product will fill an unmet need. More importantly, we make ordering online as simple, quick and easy as possible. In fact, it is just a click away. ?

Also, as social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter continue to explode in popularity, we need to continue to explore and promote our products through this growing medium. Many of our product websites also feature a blog on the site, as well as a quick and easy way for consumers to “like” and post the link on their personal Facebook pages. As the social media landscape continues to evolve and change, we foresee new opportunities in which we can promote and sell our products. ?

In short, as technology presents alternative ways to conduct business, we need to continue to respond and update the ways in which we conduct business. After all, we are living in a digital world and if we do not acknowledge this growing trend, failure is ?imminent.

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Marketers should certainly begin to integrate various digital elements into their DRTV strategy if they ?haven’t begun to do so already. However, they shouldn’t lose sight of the value of toll-free numbers. ?Toll-free numbers still have a high value to brands even as digital integration becomes a higher priority.?

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