What Is a Direct Response Ad?

What made you do your last purchase? Have you wanted something for a long time and decided to just do it? Did you casually browse a store and see something you liked? Or have you been browsing and an ad from a company convinced you that you need to buy it right now?

If the latter, the company has used some form of outbound marketing to convince you to take action immediately after seeing one of their marketing materials. It can be a very effective strategy, especially when done right.

In this post, you will learn how companies can use direct response marketing to increase conversions, best practices for creating this type of campaign, and examples from real companies for inspiration.

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What is Direct Response Marketing?

Direct response marketing, sometimes called push marketing, is when you make an offer to your target audience to persuade them to take immediate action, such as:

This strategy is popular with marketers because it can get quick results on time-sensitive campaigns.

What sets direct response marketing apart from traditional marketing is that it wants an instant response for an instant ROI, rather than traditional brand awareness. Further elements of these advertising campaigns are explained below.

Direct response marketing strategies

Direct response marketing strategies are customer-centric, targeted, supply-centric, and urgent. This means the following for your campaigns:

Customer oriented

To generate a response, your direct response ads need to be customer-centric and directly related to the value you can offer them by taking your desired action. If your target audiences can’t see why your offering is important to them, they won’t do anything.


Not all of your customers have the same needs, so your ads need to be targeted at specific audiences with personalized messages that address their weaknesses. Statistics show that this practice is worthwhile, as Epsilon found that 80% of consumers are more likely to buy a brand that offers personalized experiences.


Direct response ads encourage users to do something, so they usually come with an offer or CTA that tells the user what your desired action is, be it signing up for your newsletter or making a purchase. When creating these proposals, look for copywriting best practices to ensure they are clear, concise, focused on a specific outcome, and personalized.


In addition to a CTA, these ads all convey a sense of urgency to encourage quick action. For example, you might send a direct response ad to remind consumers of an event before it happens so they can quickly decide to sign up instead of missing out on it.

Active language and power words are good for direct response ads.

Direct response campaigns

Here are some of the common direct response campaigns businesses use.

  • Social media ads: Social media is a powerful tool for running direct response campaigns because of the sheer number of users and the targeting options that many platforms offer marketers. On this platform, ads need to use short and to-the-point text that indicates urgency and a CTA guiding the action you want your audience to take.
  • Referral Programs: Referral programs are a great tool for direct marketing, especially since you can easily track their effectiveness. Consider giving your current users a promo code or URL and asking them to share it with a friend or family member in exchange for something, such as a friend or family member. B. a discount of 10%. When they successfully refer someone, you can track it by their unique code.
  • Email: Direct response campaigns that run through email typically alert users to flash sales, upcoming events, or things like abandoned cart reminders. We’ll cover an example of a direct reply email below.
  • Show advertisements: Display ads, like banners, are located in an area on a website or channel dedicated to paid ads. They usually contain short texts that show a sense of urgency and a CTA to encourage action.
  • Direct Mail: While it may seem out of date, direct mail is a popular direct mail channel. Things like brochures, coupons, summaries, or newsletters are used for direct marketing, but be careful that your assets don’t look like junk mail.

Examples of direct response marketing

Let’s go over some high quality direct response marketing examples that you can use for your own strategy.

New York Times

The New York Times, a newspaper, used Instagram to launch a direct advertising campaign to advertise a limited discount for unlimited access to the newspaper.

Direct response marketing example: New York Times Instagram ad


Grailed is an online marketplace where individual users can resell a variety of products, from clothing to collectibles. Their form of direct response marketing takes place via email, in which they notify users when the price of an item they favor has fallen.

Direct Response Marketing Example: Email Notification of Price Reductions


Scribd is an online platform for e-books and audio books. Like the New York Times, she uses social media, especially Facebook, to run direct marketing campaigns to inform audiences about a limited-time discount offer.

Direct Response Marketing Example: Scribd Facebook Ad


UberEats is an online grocery delivery service that uses email for direct marketing campaigns to encourage users to complete a purchase after they exit their shopping cart.

Direct response marketing example: Übereat email for abandoned shopping carts

Direct response marketing metrics and tools

Below we discuss critical metrics that will help you understand your success in direct marketing and the tools you can use to collect this data.

Exchange rate

Conversion rate is an essential marketing metric for direct response ads as it tracks the number of users who took the action you wanted, also known as a conversion.

You will get a feel for how successful you have been and learn more about the effectiveness of your texts and the content you offer when it comes to adding value and taking action. Let’s take a look at some specific tools you can use to track these conversions.

1. Promotion codes

Coupon codes can be unique per user or per campaign so you can see how certain ads are successfully triggering promotions. Make sure to track the number of codes you issued so you can get an accurate feel of how many people have been converted based on the number of codes issued.

2. QR codes

QR codes are similar to promotional codes in that they are unique to the particular campaign for which you are using them. So you can see how many users actually converted from that particular ad. QR codes usually also lead to landing pages, so you can keep track of whether customers have taken action on your landing pages or have just landed on them and jumped off.

3. UTM codes

UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes are snippets of text placed at the end of a URL that help you keep track of where website traffic is coming from. For direct response marketing, you can associate your specific site traffic with your direct ads, e.g. B. those who visited your site and made a purchase after receiving a promo code.

A sample UTM code for this use case could look like this: utm_campaign = 20 percent promo code.

All in all, direct response ads have similar results to regular marketing ads, but they want a user to take action right away. Make sure to be customer centric and use concise, urgent, and compelling copy and you will find that ads lead to conversions.

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