The Complete List of Direct Response Terms

The complete list of Direct Response terms and phrases and what they mean.

What is an Ad Agency?

A company providing one or more of the following infomercial services for fees or commissions: product assessment, marketing strategy, creative, production, media planning/buying/analysis and back end management.

What is an Ad Allowable?

A dollar amount determined to be the maximum media cost per order allowed in order to make a minimum profit per piece sold. Approximately the gross profit/piece less all direct selling costs, except media time.

What is Adjacency?

Commercial spot time purchased adjacent to or within a specific program that targets the advertiser’s ideal demographic.

What is an Affidavit?

A document TV stations and cable networks create and send their agency clients confirming the commercial run times and specific prices paid.

What is an Affiliate?

A broadcast TV station that is financially compensated for local telecasting of national programs for a network (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Paramount, Warner).

What is an Airing?

The broadcast of an infomercial in a specific time slot. 

What is Airtime?

The media time periods a network or broadcast station has available for infomercial placements.

What is the Area of Dominant Influence?

a television marketing area defined by Arbitron. Each county in the U.S. is assigned to only one market according to where the majority of household viewing hours are directed.

What is Auction Format?

an infomercial program structure that mirrors an auction. “Telephone Auction” successfully aired in 1985-86 and presented products for a live audience to bid on. As the bids peaked on each product, the auctioneer dramatically revealed the actual, bargain price for the TV audience, which was significantly lower.

What is the Average Take?

term used by continuity marketers to describe the average number of orders a consumer will make once entering a continuity program. For example, a music club member may take an average of 6 CD’s before canceling their membership.

What are Back-end Sales?

any product transactions occurring after the initial direct-over TV sale generated by an infomercial or short form DRTV spot. Back-end sales can account for 20 to 50% of all DRTV product sales. Additional sales of the DRTV product and related products can be generated via inbound telemarketing (up-sells), outbound telemarketing, direct mail, continuity and club programs and catalogs. Back-end sales can account for 50 to 90% of all product sales. Retail sales are generally not considered “back-end”.

What is Bicycle Tape?

the practice of reusing an infomercial recorded on video tape. The same tape can potentially be sent to many broadcast stations for viewing or broadcasting, thus reducing tape duplication costs. Primarily used for infomercial demo tapes.

What is a Border Market?

a Nielsen Designated Market Area whose broadcast TV stations’ signals and viewer ship spills over into Canada. These are markets such as Seattle, Fargo, Detroit, Buffalo, Burlington, VT., etc.

What is B-Roll?

footage shot expressly to “cover” narration or interview copy. The audio from these shots is generally used as background audio or “sound under.” Same as “cover footage.”

What is a Call to Action (CTA)?

also know as “CTA.” That portion or portions of an DRTV commercial that “asks for the order.” An infomercial can have 1, 2, 3 or more CTA’s. Each infomercial CTA is typically a minimum of 2 minutes long and generally reviews the product’s main features and benefits, and states the product guarantee, price point, warranties, “send check” address, 800#, credit cards accepted, etc.

What is a Campaign?

term used to describe a product’s advertising plan and execution, from development, through production and media placement.

What is Clutter?

Clutter is a term used primarily by the spot image/awareness TV advertising industry to denote multiple commercial messages in a short period of time making it difficult for the individual spot commercial to stand out from the crowd. Commercial breaks can last two to four minutes, where it’s possible to have as many as eight to sixteen different commercial messages.

What is C.O.D?

acronym for “cash on delivery.” The most common method of payment in Europe; rarely used today in North American DRTV. Refusal rate is often 50% or higher making it too costly. An exception is where a product’s gross margin is very high (10 to 1) and therefore able to absorb refusal costs. “Sorry, no COD’s” is a common graphic on DRTV billboards.

What is Color Correction?

a technical process involving the electronic manipulation of colors on transferred film or video. Color correction is done to enhance color or correct lighting or equipment problems resulting in off-colored images during shooting. 

What are Comparables?

a media time slot or slots that had previously aired an infomercial with a product of similar demographic appeal to the product being analyzed.

What is Composite?

the combining, recording and transmission of a video signal’s color, luminance and chroma values and characteristics as one signal.

What is Continuing Media?

specific infomercial media time slots that produce profitable results week after week and are continually rebooked.

What I a Continuity Program?

a DRTV product purchasing program that encourages consumers to purchase the first in a series of products for a lower than normal price, then continue purchasing the entire series for a higher price. Extensively used for music and book series. Concept also employed successfully for beauty, diet products and self-development products.

What is Cost of Goods (COG)?

generally the direct costs associated with the manufacturing/packaging of a specific product.

What is Cost Per Order (CPO)?

most often called “CPO.” Refers to the television media cost to generate one product order. The figure is determined by taking the cost of a specific infomercial telecast and dividing it by the number of orders received. A $1000 time period that generates 100 product orders would have a CPO of $10.

What is Cost Per Rating Point?

commonly known as C/RP. Describes the cost of buying one rating point in a specific time period or general program category (news, talk show, soaps).

What is Creative?

term used to describe the concept and scripting phases of the production process; and/or a person or group of people who is involved in these processes, as in “the creative department”.

What is CYC?

generally a seamless curved studio wall, floor to ceiling, that is used as a background for shooting film or video.

What is the Demo Format?

an infomercial program structure that places the product center stage; generally shot in a studio, with or without a studio audience; always has a product demonstrator talking directly to the camera, or to a companion interviewer, while demonstrating the product. “Amazing Discoveries” is a classic demo formatted infomercial.

What is Digital Editing?

also called non-linear editing. The use of editing equipment that translates analog video into digitized video so as to manipulate it more quickly. Digital editing can decrease editing time by as much as 2/3.

What are Digital Video Effects?

also known as DVE or ADO. Equipment that digitizes video so as to manipulate it within the frame. Typical digital video effects include: page turns, image flipping, zooming, squeezing, sparkle trails, exploding images, etc.

What is a Direct Marketer?

in the infomercial industry, an infomercial direct marketer is a company that manufactures or sources products then executes an infomercial campaign while retaining ownership in the product sales. Different from an infomercial ad agency which has no product ownership. Examples of leading infomercial direct marketers are: American Telecast, Positive Response, USA Direct, HSN Direct, Guthy-Renker.

What does Direct Response mean?

also know as D.R.. The marketing and sales methodology of bypassing standard retail stores to make a product sale directly with the consumer. Basic direct response channels are: TV, radio, mail, print (newspapers and magazines), catalogs, phone, electronic kiosks, on-line, CD ROM and the granddaddy of them all: carnival pitch men. 

What is Direct Response Television?

also know as D.R.. The marketing and sales methodology of bypassing standard retail stores to make a product sale directly with the consumer. Basic direct response channels are: TV, radio, mail, print (newspapers and magazines), catalogs, phone, electronic kiosks, on-line, CD ROM and the granddaddy of them all: carnival pitch men. 

What is a Distributor?

in the infomercial industry, similar to direct marketer. A company that owns the rights to a product or infomercial and finances their own infomercial campaign. 

What is a Documercial?

the infomercial program format that uses production/creative techniques derived from the traditional documentary form. These may include: on-camera spokesperson, live or taped interviews, multiple location shooting; voice over narrator, real people features — all interwoven into a seamless half hour. This format, like “60 Minutes” or “20/20,” is based on actuality, i.e. no fictional elements are presented unless denoted as “dramatizations.”

What is Drag?

a term referring to DRTV orders that come in significantly after the commercial telecast time. In the infomercial industry, 75 to 95% of all orders will be made within 60 minutes of a specific telecast. Additional orders made over the next 1 to 7 days are know as drag orders.

What does it mean when you say Driving Retail?

using an infomercial campaign to directly impact and lift retail sales. Braun was the first major manufacturer to use this strategy in 1992 for their single stem food mixer. Infomercial product sales at retail can be as much as two to ten times the direct-over-TV sales volume and significantly increase existing retail volume.

Whats is Dubbing?

the video duplication of a DRTV commercial for distribution to TV stations and cable networks for airing.

What is the Effective Frequency of an Infomercial?

the estimated number of times an individual must see a specific brand awareness commercial in order to produce a positive change in awareness and attitude about the product.

What is the Effective Reach of an Infomercial?

the percentage of the target demographic that sees a specific brand awareness commercial the estimated number of times necessary to produce a positive change in awareness and attitude about the product.

What is Viewership Erosion?

refers to the “diminishing effect” on viewership, media buy and response volume. After a specific infomercial has aired for a number of weeks/months, order response levels begin to drop or “erode.”

What is a Feature when referring to an infomercial?

among infomercial producers and directors, a term used to describe a lengthy (1 to 10 minutes) profile of an individual, usually a product inventor or consumer/testimonial. Often shot “news style”. Usually structured to tell a story about how the product has impacted a person’s life.

What does the FCC have to do with infomercials?

Federal Communications Commission. Government regulatory body that oversees electronic communications, including television.

What is Film to Tape Transfer

the process of transferring the film image to video tape by projecting the film into a video camera. The video tape of the film is then edited electronically versus physically cutting and rejoining the film as traditional film editing is performed.

What is a Firesale?

term used to describe the last minute, sudden dumping of infomercial media into the media buying marketplace, usually because some agency had just canceled the same media time. 

What is Flight mean

the term used by short form media buyers to describe a specific number of spots to air during a 1,2,3 week or more period on a specific TV station or cable network.

What is Footprinting when producing an infomercial?

the process of using comparables to develop a media test strategy based on a similarly positioned and targeted product that has previously succeeded in the infomercial marketplace. Footprinting involves analyzing the preceding infomercials media buying execution: what markets, stations, time slots that the infomercial repeatedly aired on/in.

What is the format of an infomercial?

the creative concept governing the overall structure of an infomercial.

What is the frequency of an infomercial?

refers to both the number of times an infomercial will play in a specific TV market over a specified time period and the number of times the average individual will see the same commercial. The latter definition is most applicable to the spot TV ad industry and is a measure of depth of an image ad campaign.

Does the FTC control infomercials?

Federal Trade Commission: Government regulatory body that oversees commercial advertising and trade practices. 

How does Fulfillment work when producing an infomercial?

generally used to describe the warehousing, packaging, labeling, shipping and tracking functions of an infomercial campaign. These responsibilities are typically subcontracted to “fulfillment” company specialists. Some fulfillment houses also offer inbound telephone customer service.

What is a Full Disclosure Agency?

an ad agency that collects broadcast affidavits (confirming media time purchase price and run time/dates) from the TV stations and networks from which it buys, and discloses the affidavits to its clients. This proves to clients that the agency is not marking up the media time and taking more than their maximum 15% commission.

What is the Gross Buy for a media agency?

the total amount paid by an agency client for media time. It is the sum of the net buy (amount paid the media outlet) plus the agency commission.

What is the Gross Profit when producing an infomercial?

on an individual product, refers to the dollar figure derived from subtracting COG from average retail (or wholesale) price. If a product has a COG of $25 and retails for $100, its single piece gross profit is $75.

For infomercial pro forma calculations, the gross profit is the retail price less COG and other direct marketing costs, not including media expenses.

What is the Gross Profit Margin of an infomercial product?

quoted as a percentage. Calculated by dividing the product’s single piece gross profit by the product’s retail price. For example a product with COG of $25, a gross profit of $75 and a retail price of $100 has gross profit margin of 75%

How does a media agency protect your infomercial with a Guaranteed CPO?

a guarantee a media agency gives its client that the cost per order for a specific infomercial telecast will not exceed a certain dollar amount. If the actual CPO does exceed the guaranteed CPO, the agency is responsible for paying the difference.

What was the traditional Home Shopping Format?

the infomercial program structure the mimics live home shopping, using a simple set, a single product presenter sitting next to the product and often taking testimonial “phone-ins.” Although appearing to be “live,” these programs are pre-recorded.

What is the Home Shopping Network (HSN)?

known as HSN or Home Shopping Club. The Florida based, 24 hours/day, live, satellite fed, cable network purveyor of goods and services. The first such network, launched in 1984; went national in 1986. Currently has three separate networks up and running.

Do impressions matter for infomercials?

Impressions are the experience or impact of watching a TV commercial. They are not relevant and you should only care about conversions that result in revenue.

What is an Independent Broadcast Station?

any broadcast TV station that is not affiliated with a network (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Paramount, Warner).

What is an Infomercial?

any television commercial longer than two minutes.

What is the Infomercial Retail Multiple?

also know as I.R.M. The multiple used to predict retail sales resulting from an infomercial media campaign. The multiple usually is a number between 1 and 10. If the multiple is 4, then for every product sold in the infomercial, it is predicted (or realized) that 4 of the same product will be sold at retail stores.

What is an Inquiry?

a DRTV commercial generated telephone response that doesn’t result in an order. Most inquiries ask about product price, payment plan, competing products and product content. Inquiries are distinguished from orders and problem calls.

What is an Interconnect and are they still relevant?

local cable systems connected together (by wire or microwave) in order to telecast shared commercials or programs simultaneously. 

What is a Kick-Off product in the infomercial industry?

a like-category product that quickly follows another successful infomercial product. This is common in DRTV as it is in all marketing. In infomercials, there have been as many as five similar products on air at the same time. Example: juicers, food dehydrators, steppers, miracle mops, teeth whiteners.

What is a Lead-In in the infomercial industry?

the half hour program that immediately precedes your infomercial.

What is Lead Generation?

a two-step offer where the viewer is asked to call a toll free phone number for more information. The inbound telemarketer captures the “lead’s” name, address and phone number. The fulfillment house then sends, free of charge, information in the form of letters, brochures, video tapes and product samples. If the lead doesn’t respond within a short time (e.g., two weeks), additional information is sent. As many as five or six mailings may be sent the lead, attempting to induce an order. The advertiser may follow up a lead, additionally or exclusively, with outbound telemarketing.


the half hour program that immediately follows your infomercial.

Lecture Format

the infomercial program structure that generally features a charismatic speaker addressing an audience about his/her infomercial product. Examples: Susan Powter, Covert Bailey, Gary Cochran.

Linear Editing

also known as analog editing. Editing analog video in a linear fashion, adding one image after another into a long string of video cuts. The disadvantage of linear editing is that if you change the length of a cut five minutes into a thirty-minute infomercial, you then have to re-edit everything that followed the change.


any TV commercial longer than 2 minutes. This was the accepted term for an infomercial from 1984 until “infomercial” came into vogue in 1988.

Master Dub

the dub of the master with a specific 800 number edited in from which other dubs with the same 800 number will be sent to different market TV stations.

Media Agency

an infomercial agency that provides only media buying and analysis services. 

Media Analysis

the time consuming task of reviewing the profitability of each infomercial telecast to determine whether to buy the specific time slot again or to cancel it. Also, to review all telecasts in aggregate to determine trends, strengths, weaknesses and enhance predictability.


for DRTV, the time that a broadcast/cable network or broadcast station has available to sell for commercial insertion.

Media Buy

usually refers to the amount paid for one or more time slots/spots over a period of time. “The client’s media buy for the month of September was $1,847,372.”

Media Efficiency Ratio

Also known as MER. A number which is a snapshot of an infomercial’s overall success or failure. The ratio is derived by dividing total sales (resulting from a particular telecast or telecasts) by the media cost. For example, if you buy a half hour for $1000 and generate $3000 in sales, the MER is 3. Sales / Media Cost = MER

Media Time

any time on a TV station or cable network available for programming or commercials.

Money Back Guarantee

commonly known as MBG. The promise a marketer gives a consumer to refund all or part of the purchase price within given time period, typically 30 days.

Multiple Product Offer

the technique of offering 2,3,4 or more products in the same infomercial. The varying products can be in the same product category (single shows devoted to dolls, video tapes, kitchen appliances) or different categories (single show showcasing a tool, automotive, kitchen, and self-help products). The latter format has never proven profitable for a non-retail driving infomercial. A risky venture. Give a prospective buyer too much to decide on and they won’t decide on anything.

Non-Disclosure Agency

an ad agency that buys media without revealing to their clients the exact price they paid for it. Broadcast affidavits are not revealed to the client. There is the potential here for the agency to make significantly more than 15% commission. For example, an agency might pay $750 net to a station and sell it to their client for $1250 for a 40% commission.

One-Step Offer

a DRTV offer that requests the viewer call the 800# (or write) and purchase the featured product with his/her credit card now.

Per Inquiry

also known as PI. The practice of primarily smaller, weaker stations and cable networks of accepting DRTV commercial media payment in the form of a percentage of sales. The stations/networks essentially become the direct marketers partner and receive 20 to 35% of total sales generated from the telecasts. A common practice until DRTV time became tight in the 1980’s. 

Post Production

the electronic assembly of video, audio and graphics via off-line and on-line editing. 


the removal, at a TV station or cable networks discretion, of a scheduled infomercial to be replaced by another infomercial, entertainment programming or special reports. 


the organizational stage that precedes infomercial production. This involves research, location scouting, set design, production crew hiring, testimonial pre-interviews, production scheduling and more.

What is an infomercial producer?

the person who is responsible for the organization, management and execution of an infomercial production. Responsibilities include: scheduling, hiring free lance personnel, budgeting, etc.

What is the reach of an infomercial?

the number of different people or homes that see a specific commercial at least once. Reach measures the breadth of an ad campaign.

What are infomercial returns?

the number of units, the dollar amount or the percentage of total sales that are returned to the direct marketer for a refund.

What are infomercial returns and allowances?

a percentage of total sales that is projected (and actual) to be returned for refunds.


a pre-taped segment, 30 seconds to 3 minutes in length, that is played back and inserted during the taping of a live telecast.


the stage of an infomercial media campaign where it has been determined (from the media test) that the infomercial is a success and now time for regional or nationwide distribution. A roll-out can mean buying up to $2 million of media per month with telecasts in nearly all 211 TV markets. Typically this maximum media spending level is reached through a gradual expansion over 2 to 4 months.

Run of Station

short form commercial media time is purchased at a discount because the stations retain the right to insert them wherever they choose within certain broad time periods, e.g. 12 noon to 4 PM. The station determines the run time.

What is a self-improvement product?

any product or service that provides benefits of improving an individual’s financial status, occupation, relationships, self-esteem, memory, physical and mental health. Such products often have excellent mark-ups of as much as 15 to 1 but rarely succeed unless the benefits are visually concrete (e.g. diet products) Tony Robbins “Personal Power” is an exception. His success can be attributed primarily to the strength of his personality.


any DRTV commercial that is 2 minutes or less in length.

60’s, 90’s and 120’s

refers to the length (in seconds) of short form commercials. 60’s and 90’s are easier to buy media for than 120’s. 10’s, 15’s and 30’s are the domain primarily of image/awareness advertisers; generally not effective for DRTV.


advertisers in the infomercial business refer to any image/awareness, non-DRTV commercial (generally 5 to 60 seconds in length) as a spot commercial. Traditional advertisers (non-DRTV) define the “spot” market as the purchase of advertising on local broadcast TV stations, market by market.

Success Ratio Rate

the ratio of infomercial “winners to losers.” Is often quoted for the industry as a whole (1984: 1 in 3; 1994: 1 in 20) or for specific infomercial companies, directors, writers. The ratio has risen over the past 10 years primarily because of increased media rates and competition.


the production of independent, non-network programming distributed to local broadcast stations and cable networks and paid for by cash or bartered commercial time.

Two-Step Offer

Same as lead generator. An infomercial offer that requests the viewer call an 800# (or write) and ask for more information (a video or brochure) after which they are considered a lead and pursued via mail or phone for the actual order.


any product that is additionally offered to a DRTV product purchaser at the time of their initial telephone order. Inbound telemarketers, after taking the key product ordering information, will often offer the caller a second and third related products, typically discounted. A music CD at half price; 3 months of a cosmetic for the cost of two; an additional key product at half price, etc. 


the unseen narrator’s voice.


once “the wall” is hit, we see a sudden simultaneous fall off of CPO’s and spending levels.

Wobble Zone

levels prior to “hitting the wall” are consistently around ad allowable while spending levels are maintained. In this “wobble zone” the CPO fluctuates under and around the ad allowable.